American entrepreneur Elon Musk is the driving force behind Tesla Motors, the electric car startup named in honour of iconic electrical engineer and physicist Nikola Tesla.
Superlative branding and marketing have seen Tesla’s offerings develop extraordinary cachet since the 2008 launch of its first vehicle, the sleek and sexy Tesla Roadster.
So what lessons can small business owners take from the Tesla marketing playbook?
Mellissah Smith, the founder of small business marketing agency Marketing Eye shares her top five.
Turn things upside down
If you’re operating in a crowded market, don’t count on “me too” tactics if you want to stand out. Make like Tesla and do things differently, Smith advises.
“Too many small businesses fear disruptive marketing and follow the same path as their competitors,” she says.
“If everyone is walking one way, walk the other.”
Like Dr Frank-N-Furter, Tesla knows how creating a sense of anticipation can add to the enjoyment of the eventual purchase. Hence its focus on “experiential marketing”.
“People can go and sit in their cars but not drive them,” Smith says. “Given it’s hard to have even this type of experience, it makes people want it more.”
Resisting the urge to rush the sale and creating an alluring “next step” in the purchasing process can be equally beneficial for small businesses, she says.
Having a firm price means you stand by your product – people put trust in brands that do this.
Want a Tesla? Pay the asking price. No discounts, no deals.
It makes sense for small businesses to take the same tack, if their offering represents quality and fair value in the market.
“So many people discount to get the sale but what that says is that your product or service isn’t worth what you originally said it was,” Smith says.
“Having a firm price means you stand by your product – people put trust in brands that do this.”
Get in line
Decided it’s time you joined the other cool folk with a big T key ring? Put your name on the list and wait – just as those who want the latest Ferrari, Bentley or Hermes Birkin bag have to.
Most small businesses can’t afford to have waiting lists but this method of marketing is a winner when it comes to creating a sense of quality and exclusivity, Smith says.
Cameron Diaz, Will Smith, Leonardo di Caprio… Tesla drivers all. Celebrity endorsement has boosted the profile of the electric car maker and it can be a powerful marketing tactic for small businesses smart or lucky enough to find themselves a high profile champion.
“We live in a celebrity culture,” Smith says. “Using celebrity endorsement, especially on social media, can help build a brand and create followers.”
Sylvia Pennington is a Brisbane-based freelance journalist who writes about small business, information technology and personal finance.