Losing To Craigslist

Today's article is about changing the way you do business. Here's what I mean:

This week my 17-year-old son's junker of a car finally died. It was a '91 Subaru without airbags, so my wife and I decided that it would be good to upgrade him to a safer car. A used or new Prius would be just the ticket, we thought. I could use the Prius to commute, saving on gas money, and my son could drive my nice safe Toyota Rav 4 to school and to work at the local Petsmart.

So I head down to the Toyota dealership where my wife had seen a used Prius a few days before. Three years before I had bought my Rav 4 at the same dealership, so I was a going concern to them. I ask the salesman about the used Prius. He doesn't know anything about the car and is sure I'm mistaken. I call my wife, who tells me exactly where in the lot the car is located. I wait with the salesman for 20 minutes while someone moseys around and gets the keys so we can test-drive the car, during which time the salesman tells me how much he dislikes selling cars.



We do the test-drive and I'm ready to deal. I ask about a new Prius as well, since there's a 2008 Prius in the lot. He tells me I could buy it outright or get a three-year lease. Then we run into the first snag: "How many miles you going to drive?" asks the salesman. "I don't know," I say. "Well, I have to know right now," he says. If you go over the mileage, they charge you 50 cents a mile." Already I'm forced to make a decision that could affect my life three years from now -- and I haven't even taken out my wallet or had my coffee yet.

I tell him to run some numbers: new, used, lease. "Well, what do you want, exactly?" persists the salesman. I tell him just give me some options. "On that used car, you can make us an offer," he offers, unsolicited. He disappears. I sit there for 30 minutes. He come backs. First thing he says: "There is no negotiation on the used car price. Or the new car, either."

He shows me some really high monthly numbers. I do a little calculation and see that his numbers are wrong based on the interest rate he'd quoted me. He recalculates. We go back and forth. I'm getting angrier and more impatient. He brings his manager over, who dismisses the problem by saying: "You have a bank, right? Go get a loan from them and pay us cash." Now I'm insulted. I leave.

The next day I went to Craigslist. I bought a used Prius for half the money the dealer was asking. End of story. Oh, except to say, I'll never go back to the dealer again.

Even with email programs, we, as marketers, need to reinvent ourselves constantly. Am I treating my established customers right? Am I sending out my offers too infrequently, or too often?

Am I making it easy for them to buy? Or am I losing customers forever without even knowing it?

If you find yourself doing things the same old way, technology is going to bury you. There are a lot of people on Craigslist who would just love to take your customers away. Don't let them.

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