What to do with unexpected clients? – And how not to lose them

“You are not really going to ride that ugly car, are you?” Since I admitted to buying a Mitsubishi Outlander I get overwhelmed by disappointed reactions from friends and family. Because they are car lovers. Petrol heads.

I get their point, but…

The diesel guzzlers they love to drive are not very sustainable and a more environmental friendly car had been on top my wish list for quite some time. The Mitsubishi Outlander seemed the ‘least dreadful’ version of all hybrid cars on the market. A little less ugly and dull than the others, so to say. Take into account the tax benefit on top of that and the choice was easy.

Reluctantly though.

Brands are part of our identity

We all have our preferences for specific brands. Whether it is conscious or unconscious. We search for a brand with features that are in line with our own desired personality. By choosing a specific brand, we are associated with a target group to which we would like to belong. While one person does not want to be associated with a Japanese car at all, the next will not stop talking about the amazing technical features of the same car.

But what if ‘your’ brand does not deliver the kind of product or product features that are very important to you? What if none of the brands you prefer offer a sustainable choice?

That will force you to step out of your comfort zone and look at another brand. This brand then has the challenge to connect with these new, unexpected clients. And to keep them, without losing their existing clients.

11.000 sold cars without test-drive (but “Mit-subsidie”)

Mitsubishi is a strong player in the hybrid car market. A few years ago, the Japanese brand said to have the ambition to focus on the production of sustainable SUVs for an affordable price. In 2020, 20% of their cars will be electric or plug-in hybrid. Electric driving will become one of the pillars of their worldwide sales strategy.

And it is already paying off, so it seems. Last year the brand took the semi-electric Outlander PHEV to the European market. Aided by the significant the tax benefit (the Dutch nickname the brand ‘Mit-subsidie’ – with subsidy) there was a big run on this car. No less than 11.000 cars were sold without the future owners even taking a test-drive.

Awkwardness in the showroom

Mitsubishi is known for its user-friendly cars for an affordable price. The dealers have adjusted their sales pitch entirely to this message. But how do you approach this new group of sustainable buyers? They clearly have no idea, so it seems when I walk into the showroom with my wallet already pulled out.

Dealers seem to be ashamed for the relative high price of the sustainable Outlander. They think it is a waste of money to pay for the extra features and have almost nothing to say about the sustainable qualities of the car. With every unanswered question, I get more uncomfortable.

The green ambitions of the management have obviously not yet reached all layers of the company.

But as long as there are no serious alternatives, Mitsubishi will profit from this situation. However, there is no reason to sit back and relax. Other European brands will follow suit with their own affordable hybrid. And if Mitsubishi’s unexpected clients still do not feel at home with their new brand, they will go straight back to their own familiar brands.

Know your customer

Bringing a new sustainable product to the market has a lot of consequences. One of them is that you may gain a new target group. The group of consumers that makes choices based on the sustainability of a brand is growing. This group is focused on innovation in the market and they like to be well informed.

As a brand you need to be prepared for this. Being the first with an innovation only gets you one step ahead on short term. If you want to keep those customers in the long run, you need to make an effort. You have to understand your customers. What motivates them? What are their wishes?

This means that your sales people should learn how to handle different target groups. Which clients is motivated by price and which clients do you seduce with the technical aspects of the product?

Learn their language. If new clients feel understood, they might (unexpectedly) become a regular client