Ford F-150 Has Arrived! Thoughts before I see my baby.

Delivery day! Getting a long awaited new car is not unlike a pregnancy. We spend hours reading about, watching videos, preparing for, dreaming of and hoping for the future while we wait. We don’t only dream, we buy stuff. Lots of stuff. We definitely don’t get pregnant and then do nothing until delivery day… or do we?

Yesterday I got the call that my Ford F-150 Crew Cab truck had arrived at the dealership. Hooray!  The anticipation for this 2021 brand-spanking-new truck has been building since before I ordered it from the dealer back in July.

After I placed my order, the dealership went dark on me. Every communication was initiated by me except when they needed my credit card number (again) because they hadn’t run my deposit, and the most recent which was the notification that the truck had arrived. I reached out to them to verify they had placed my truck order, to find out the expected build date, and then several times concerning when I could expect the truck to be delivered.

I have spent most of my life in sales and marketing, and I see the world through that lens. This post is meant for the marketing department at Ford and their dealership. People—you are missing a huge opportunity! Turn the lemons of having short supply and long wait times into lemonades of add-on sales and increased loyalty.

Dear Ford Marketing Team:

I understand the need to generate sales, even in times of short supply. I also recognize an opportunity when I see one. And I see an opportunity for you to create more loyal customers and to make add-on high margin sales while the customer is waiting impatiently for the new car. The F-150 is the most popular truck in America, and has been for 44 (!!) years. Leverage that, and it could be the best seller for another 44 years. But you can bet GM and Toyota are gunning for that top spot, so there’s no time for complacency.

First of all, with automated, customized drip marketing, you could enter the buyer’s name, sexual orientation, type of vehicle, date of sale and estimated arrival date into a system that has periodic emails or texts queued up along the waiting period. An email as simple as, “We know you are waiting, we’re waiting too!” would acknowledge your client’s angst and anticipation. And while you are at it, make sure I am deleted from other drip marketing campaigns that tell me to buy a new vehicle. I already did.

Part of the drip campaign should be focused on the add-ons for the particular vehicle purchased. I’ve already begun looking at add-ons through other vendors, and I am sure I will be buying but probably not through the dealership. This is an opportunity to get more of my wallet that you are totally missing. I have a feeling that when I go in to pick up my new truck I will be getting strong-armed into add-ons like fabric and rust protection, extended warranties. All the advice online would indicate not to make any commitments on the spot. The add-ons I am considering are WeatherTech mats, a bed cover and bed mat. Another hook you could have deals with gender. Buyers love swag—shirts, hats, kitchy things for the vehicle (trailer hitch cover with cutesy smily faces or American flags)—with low price tags but high margins. And the segment of women adds a particular twist to the swag. Advertise your dealership with this stuff and dangle it in front of me while I wait!

With today’s technology, Ford could set up cameras throughout the production line to show me how my car is coming together in the assembly. I would LOVE to have seen shots as the truck moved through the line. It probably wouldn’t have even had to have been my own truck, just pictures of what a truck goes through to be built. That would have made me happy, reduced the uncertainty whether the vehicle was even being made, and tie me closer to the entire process. As I understand, it only takes a day for a vehicle to be produced, but the dealer and Ford could milk that process for weeks if necessary by adding sales copy to the pictures to make me love the vehicle even more! I actually celebrated my truck’s “birthday” on its build day!

OK, I know I’m not buying a hand made Maserati, but I am buying a made-to-order vehicle. At the end of the line they could sign and number it and make me even feel more special. Something as simple as a certificate of build with Vin number and signature of the “line supervisor” would make me happy and special. Or a generic picture of the guy at the computer who controls the process or a generic picture of Ford workers at the end of the line. Anything that personalizes the connection between your plant, my vehicle and me.

I had asked my salesperson to take pictures while the car was begin unloaded and/or prepped at the dealership. For sure they should take pictures as they hand me the keys posed by the side of the truck.

Throughout this process they could be plugging the benefits of buying through their dealership. Service staff, competitiveness of their service, their sales process, coffee bar, loaner cars, and whatever else they have that I might want or need after the sale.

Finally, they have the opportunity to sell me swag and service when I take delivery. Hats, t-shirts, trailer hitch covers, decals…the list is endless. People who buy high end vehicles (Audis, Porsches, Mercedes, Cadillacs, Lexus) are not averse to taking their vehicles into the dealership for service. They are sold on the belief the dealership knows their brand and knows how to do things right. Get me in for an oil change—I can go to Jiffy Lube. But get me in for an oil change AND the free F-150 inspection specific to my truck and I might go the extra mile.

Many years ago I bought an Eddie Bauer Ford Bronco 2. I  got an Eddie Bauer travel bag as a promotional freebie. I still use that bag today, long after the vehicle was traded and gone. That purchase was over 30 years ago.

              This purchase was wrought with issues. The Covid epidemic caused some shortages and significant lead times for supplies and deliveries. The wait times have been angst ridden. The dealer and Ford could have turned these negatives into a positive, fun, and engaging experience. All they need to do is put themselves into my shoes, hold my hand, deliver what they can, divert my focus from what they can’t or don’t deliver but rather on what a great company, product and dealership they are.

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