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“Purple Cow Automotive”

Finding the wow factor through Seth Godin’s “Edgecrafting”

People love to be experts. We all have opinions and we love to share them. The old axiom of please one customer and they’ll tell 1 person, make them angry and they will tell ten, may still hold true, but with the explosion of social networking sites we have seen a much greater willingness to share the good than anyone could have imagined.

This is NOT an article about facebook, myspace or linkedin social networking. (I too am tired of the rah rah there)

This is an article that I hope will remind you to think about your company and services through the eyes of your consumers as a way to influence what their mouths may say and what their fingers may type about you, your business and services.

My favorite business author of all time is a man named Seth Godin. He has written a number of basic, tell it like it is works that I love. Purple Cow (hence my title. In his book he uses the idea of seeing a purple cow as something that would be so unique it would lirterally become remarkable – as in people seeing it would feel compelled to remark on it to there friends and family.) Permission Marketing, and my favorite Free Prize Inside.

In the latter book Seth talks about something he calls “Edgecraft.” (According to Godin, Edgecraft is " ... a methodical, measurable process that allows individuals and teams to inexorably identify the soft innovations that live on the edges of what already exists.")

My overly simplified summation of this concept is this… you don’t have to swing for the fences with one or two major, sea change innovations to really move the needle with your business. You may do better to simply work on looking at what and how you do what you do and tweaking those offers and processes enough to add value and improved perception in a way that moves your customer to think of you as something more than a place to get their car fixed.

Tweaking the “edges” of a service or product can be fun and surprisingly impactful to your bottom line and company culture and most importantly get your customers talking about you to their friends and family.

Personal experience. I ALWAYS try to use small business and independently owned service companies when I can. I'm wired that way because my dad was one of these “little” guys too and I get how hard it is to compete.

Anywho, recently I used a automotive service shop to take care of a bunch of maintenance and repair issues that had been nagging my vehicle for a while. Every time I picked my car up from this garage, it had been washed and vacuumed. Even if no work was done. Wow. It’s not that I couldn't simply pay $10 bucks somewhere for the same service. What really moved the needle for me as a consumer is how I felt better about my car every time I drove away from that facility.

My car is getting up in years and mileage and I’m kind of rough on it in general. BUT – when I have driven away from the garage, at least 4 times now over these past months, I LIKE my car again. I hadn't felt that way about it for a long time. Its a small thing, I know, but the emotional bond that shop has created with me feels like… wait for it… LOYALTY. Not because they fixed my car (they actually couldn't fix one of the issues) but because they figured out how to make me feel good about having my car fixed. HUGE difference there.

Of course, I have told friends and family that this is the shop I’d go to if I were them. I never say its because they wash my car. I do it because I feel good about that shop. Edge crafting is a way of describing similar pursuits.

Some examples of Edgecraft concepts…(More can be found here www.freeprizeinside.com)

  1. Build-A-Bear Workshop sells Teddy Bears and stuffed animals. So do 10,000 other stores. However… they charge people to make them themselves, and get them to pay more for the privilege! (Wow, I wonder if you could offer a fix it yourself series of classes for simple tasks… oil change, wipers, etc.? I bet if you did, you'd earn customers for the more expensive repairs that are not DIY operations)
  2. Hershey is has created a experiential boutique in Times Square. There’s a machine there where people wait 20 minutes to press a button and watch machine gravity feed various Hershey candies into a bag—for twice the price of the same candy on “regular” store shelves.
  3. One of my best friends, Jason Marrone, is the online marketing hot-shot for Jelly Belly. One of his most successful innovations there has been to simply allow customers to upload pictures or photos of their choosing to have imprinted on the container that is used to hold the jelly beans sent to loved ones as gifts.

“Yeah, but this is just car repair / pool cleaning / house cleaning / a bakery / a dry cleaner / name it”

Really? Is that all you really do? I don't think that’s how we consumers feel about it. We don’t care that you replaced our rotor, cap, wires and plugs so much as we care that you made it possible to get our kids to school on time.

You make it possible for me to take my wife on a date night (not often enough by the way – can you find us a good sitter too?)

You get me to work every day. (I won't hold that one against you.)

How can you reinforce these facts in a way that make me/us feel better about your product and service? Maybe its not so much “total car care” as “total life freedom”.

Take a clue from Southwest… “You are now free to roam about the country…”  Are they selling airline travel with long delays, security checks and high sneezing large people flowing into your seat? Nope. They are selling the feeling of escape, adventure and wonderlust.

How can you redefine what you do to a point that influences how we feel about you as a company? Write me and let me know…


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