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That Could Be Me: Moving Beyond the WIIFM Principle

Honor the Sacred WIIFM

For decades now, salespeople have been trained to honor the sacred WIIFM Principle (What’s in it for Me?) in everything they do. The rationale being that the more a salesperson can help his customers understand how the product will meet the needs of their unique situations, the more likely the customer will be to buy it.

Knowing that the kind of people who go into sales are often the type who enjoy talking about themselves, the WIIFM principle provides a tool for keeping the presentation on track and paving the road toward that all-important yes.

But that was then, and now, we need more.

These days, customers need a different kind of help to lead them to that yes, so I suggest that we as digital marketers add a new concept to the WIIFM Principle, which I have dubbed The TCBM Principle, or That Could Be Me. This concept argues that many consumers no longer want to be like their role models, they demand the knowledge and resources necessary to become them.

To illustrate my point, here are a few examples of brands and brand personalities who are profitably leveraging the That Could Be Me principle:

Hard Charge
Have you participated in a Hard Charge?

Hard Charge: This “Televised Obstacle Mission” travels from city to city and sets up mud pits for adventurous people to slop through, all the while filming the action to later be turned into a TV show broadcast in the local area.

Reality TV already scores high on the TCBM charts, as the low level of talent allows viewers to project themselves into the story (“if they could do it, why couldn’t I?”), and Hard Charge takes the concept a step further, allowing the general public to actually be a part.

With now over 1,076 Facebook RSVPs and counting for the Wichita event, and with admission prices ranging from $56 to $122, I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw more of these types of productions taking their ideas on the road. That could be me.

deadmau5 WIIFM
Joel Thomas Zimmerman, better known as Deadmau5

Electronic Dance Music: Never before has the fabled path to stardom appeared as direct as it does with the current EDM craze.

All you need, the current legend goes, is a laptop, some headphones, and a dream, and pretty soon you’ll be DJing parties all around the world. Forget the old world of recording studios and record distribution — all that can be done from your laptop, too.

Music producer and trendsetter DeadMau5 once famously said that DJs are the number one customers for his music, which is immensely telling. In other words, his biggest customer base is not the music listening public, it’s the kids who want to use his music to draw attention to themselves. He’s found great success with the sale of sample packs, too, which are digital downloads of the raw elements one needs to make electronic music, such as drum sounds, synthesizer samples, and so forth.

Why would I want that? Because That could be me.

Tracy Myers in has Hat
Tracy Myers – Walt Disney for a new generation

Tracy Myers: Of course, this list wouldn’t be complete without everyone’s favorite American Flag-hatted “Walt Disney for a new generation.”

We all know Tracy sells a LOT of cars, and much of his content stays true to that aspect of his brand. However, the real magic of his marketing machine is the message that if we, too, follow the path he’s laid out, we might also reap similar rewards. Tracy has been demonstrating the TCBM Principle on full blast for years now, and it’s what keeps us hanging on his every post.

In the excellent documentary The People Vs. George Lucas, there is an discussion of the concept of participatory art, which accounts for the staggering amount of Star Wars fan fiction, art, video, costumes–basically, an entire fan universe. It is no longer enough, they say, for people to merely be spectators. To show one’s love is to take an active part in the culture, because that could be me.

One of the reasons why Pinterest is so successful is that it allows customers to pin and browse at their own pace, as opposed to having to move at the pace of video or read an entire piece of text.

Humans can process images in 1/20th of a second, or they can contemplate as long as they like. You’ll notice that successful pins often don’t have human subjects inside of them, which allows the pinner to project herself (or himself?) into the scene. Also, Pinterest allows pinners to take credit for the curation, and congratulate themselves on having such great taste. In other words, by using someone else’s building blocks, pinners are allowed to assemble the information needed to construct what they want their lives to look like.

That’s why the do it yourself project pins are so popular, because I could do that. That could be me.

So, how can your dealership use this to move forward?

For starters, by understanding that it is no longer enough to just have a social media presence. The secret’s out, the social gold rush is in full swing, and businesses everywhere are stumbling over themselves to figure out how to be “engaging.”

It’s time to start tearing down the walls between online and real life as quickly and thoroughly as possible. Start interacting with other professionals in your community who are hungry to take their skills to the next level, and do what we do here on DealerRefresh every day — SHARE YOUR KNOWLEDGE. We’re eager to share best practices with industry colleagues, which is great, but it’s easy to forget that this information is also valuable to businesspeople in other sectors of your community, potential influencers for your brand, and ultimately, potential car buyers. We’re so hardened by the constant upheaval in this business that we forget that the internet still scares the crap out of a lot of folks.

In the car business, you have the opportunity to try approaches that others in your community might not have even heard of yet, so open your box of secrets and people will love you for it. This could include putting your writing talents to work for a local publication, seeking out networking groups, or taking steps to start a marketing community of your own right where you are.

It’s no longer enough to present an image of personal success for people to admire – too many slicked-up car guys have shut that road down. These days, leaders must be confident enough to share their secrets, so that their followers might believe that, someday, that could be me.

Food for thought: What are some other auxiliary ideas that your dealership might be able to sell to make people want to be part of your tribe?

Bonus: The graphic at the top is a playful reference to the bizarre phenomenon of Bruceploitation.

After Bruce Lee’s death, several Bruce Lee lookalikes changed their names to lame knockoffs like Bruce Le and Bruce Li, and were cast in a batch of even lamer films like Bruce is Loose, Bruce Takes Dragon Town, and Fist of Fear, Touch of Death. If you’ve ever shopped in any bin of discount VHS tapes, chances are you’ve come across one of these films.

Aaron Wirtz is the Media & Marketing Manager for Subaru of Wichita (formerly Suzuki of Wichita) and Super Car Guys, where his innovative social me...
  • K
  • March 20, 2013
Suzuki of Wichita's company culture seems addictive. Having spoken with the owner, I believe their approach to selling cars in wonderful!