Product Specialists make car shopping fun, informative and put you at ease. And, they can’t sell you a car!
A number of years ago, Margery Krevsky Dosey went to the Detroit Auto Show to see her friend modeling alongside a concept Cadillac on a rotating display. Wearing a blue Oscar de la Renta dress that matched the color of the car, her friend stood on the platform while auto executives talked about the car and show attendees filed past.
Margery wanted to see her friend, but she had an ulterior motive: as the fashion director of J.L.Hudson department store, she hoped to strike a deal to sell dresses to the models at the auto show. As she chatted with her friend, though, her idea shifted.
Margery loved the dress, but she loved the Cadillac even more. A piece of sculpture, it caught her attention. She asked her friend questions about the car, but her friend could’t answer; the models were not allowed to talk. Later the model offered to tell Margery all about the car. The designer of the car left his notes in the glove compartment. Over coffee, the model shared all the details of the Cadillac, details she’d learned as executives talked about the car over and over during the show.
As Margery listened she thought “what if, at auto shows, beautiful, attractive, highly intelligent, well-trained people could talk to consumers about cars?”
Productions Plus was born and the auto show industry was forever changed.
A Discussion About Cars Rather Than a Sales Pitch
When product specialists say “I can tell you about the car, but I’m so sorry, I can’t sell you this car,” people immediately warm to the discussion about the car. Margery, from her experience with department store customers and knowing how customers buy dresses and cosmetics, realized that people prefer to shop in a warm and friendly environment rather than in a hard-sell situation. Bringing the information about cars off the stage and putting it in the hands of product specialists would make cars more accessible and appealing.
Fast forward 34 years and auto shows are decidedly different places: guests stroll, ask questions, sit in cars, learn about technology, safety and pricing, all in a friendly discussion.
It took a while for Margery’s idea to take root. Productions Plus started in the 1980s when it became clear to marketers that women drove the car purchasing decisions in their households. But getting the company off the ground was a challenge in a predominantly male industry. Margery spent a year kicking the idea around, and when she felt it was right, she put together a marketing plan and started to talk to auto companies.
“I had gone to Ford, GM, and Chrysler and had doors slammed in my face,” she told us. “But then, I got an appointment with Nissan and laid out how I could change their footprint [at the auto show] and increase their sales. And I said ‘if it doesn’t work you don’t have to pay me.’ Well, that did it!” She was hired.
Thirty-four years later, Productions Plus has a database of 25,000 product specialists working at 71 auto shows and hundreds of annual auto events from the Super Bowl to the Indy 500. The company has even branched out, hiring and training the experts to interface with millions of consumers to educate them on cars as well as espresso makers, kitchen appliances and more.
Proving Her Idea Worked… And Driving Sales at Dealers
When Margery stepped in with a fresh perspective for the L.A. Auto Show for Nissan, they had a great experience. “I would ask, if having my people mention your dealership results in foot traffic, would you let me know?’ It worked every time.” The Nissan dealers in the area reported a significant increase in traffic into the dealership. They had more people come in for test drives and they sold more cars. Nissan then asked Margery to do the same thing again at the New York Auto Show, this time with more staff.
The strategy shifted the auto show’s dynamics and soon Productions Plus began working with the other auto manufacturers. This success was replicated with everyone they worked with. “Auto show attendees [were] surprised that girls on the floor knew about the mechanisms of the car, it became a discussion rather than ogling.”
Good-bye, Booth Babes. Hello, Car Shopping!
Before Productions Plus, auto shows had a girl problem. In that women didn’t want to attend because the women working there were on display, often in skimpy dresses. “Women who are scantily clad at an auto show are offensive,” Margery recognized. “And because women make 70% of decisions, we can’t turn them off.” So part of Productions Plus strategy is to dress product specialists in smart and stylish outfits that make guests comfortable asking questions. Working with 10 different designers, the company strives to align the specialists’ wardrobes with the auto brand’s image and aesthetics, as well as with the types of show guests in attendance. During each show’s industry days, a lot of women will be outfitted in chic dresses; on public days they are in pants so they can climb into SUVs to demonstrate putting the seats down. “The wardrobe needs to function with the job,” Margery says.
But wardrobe is just the start. Margery brought the models off the stage and educated them to become product specialists. Today, most are college educated with degrees in communications, entertainment, education. As production specialists, they are trained on the manufacturer’s vehicles so they can answer questions and provide details on the cars, the company, the brand, and the designer, all in a no-pressure environment.
And, they are able to tailor the discussion to attendees interests. “If attendees are moms with strollers, we talk about safety. If you get Saturday night boys night, talk about performance. If you get a group of chic women and men, talk about design characteristics. If you’re not sure, talk about the culture of the company, where it’s made, what makes this brand special.”
And, they’re what makes auto shows special. Customers are the focus of attention, product specialists educate and discuss rather than sell. So customers can be in a warm, comfortable place and do their shopping.