There’s a lot you can learn from Hyundai.
It took the automaker 20 years to transform the brand from “junk car” to “gotta have,” but today models like the Elantra and Sonata are hot tickets (forget any kind of discount at a dealership). Since 2008, sales are up 60% and show no signs of stopping.
John Krafcik, CEO of American operations, sat down with the Associated Press recently and offered up some profound advice that owners of Main Street businesses can use to help grow their revenue and reputation:
1. Show, don’t tell, that you mean quality.
It’s one thing to talk about the quality of your product or service; it’s another to back it up. In 2007, Hyundai knew that the workmanship and reliability of their automobiles rivaled the best of the bunch. But the brand had taken such a beating in past years for poor quality, the company couldn’t just “tell” consumers and hope they’d believe it. Instead, Hyundai made what was, according to Krafcik, a “bet-the-company move,” offering a 10-year, 100,000-mile warranty with each car. It was a bold strategy that paid off, getting the attention of consumers and press alike.
The average human hears or reads about “quality” probably 100 times a day. And the response is one, big yawn. What is it about the quality of your particular product or service that makes you so special? How can you prove it to customers? What are you willing to lay on the line to convince someone to do business with you?
2. Conduct research with an open mind and a skeptical eye.
Krafcik has forward-thinking vision about being more intuitive with consumer research. When asked why Hyundai started pushing the envelope with design, Krafcik noted, “… conventional orthodoxy in the industry was midsize cars should be styled conservatively. This is typical market research talking… doesn’t move the needle in terms of sales. When we do our research, we categorize people before they come (in) as either conservative or progressive in their design thought. And we can then weight the results.”
Market research also goes beyond the typical focus group. Hyundai devotes large segments of research time and dollars on sending product planners and engineers out to spend days with consumers. The goal is to learn how consumers live their lives around their cars. It’s clear to Krafcik that consumers see and use their automobiles as “personal living space.” From trunk room (where do they put all those huge packages of toilet paper from Costco?) to cup holders (two per driver and two per passenger), it’s the little things that make Hyundai models seem like the dream car you’ve always wanted.
How much do you know about your customers and how your product or service interacts with their lives? Conducting your own research with mini-immersion projects will give you a clearer picture and is an affordable, easy way to discover ideas that will set you a apart from your competition.
Quality will always drive the mission and vision of Hyundai Motor Company (they are constantly working toward a fanatical level of quality control), but with it, they carry the banner of “bold targets drive great things.” Taking simple steps to get to know how the consumer lives each day, exploring ideas to incorporate your brand into her life, and backing up all your talk about quality will set you on the road to growth and big-picture vision.
If you’re interested, catch the entire interview with John Krafcik – a worthy read.
We’d like to hear what you think about quality and how it reflects on your brand. If you need help with ideas, post a comment below about your business and its quality – we’ll see if we can help you come up with a bold move of your own.