Belle of the Ball

A good friend of mine makes a lot more money than a magazine editor could ever dream of. His everyday house is a sprawling one-story that dwarfs said editor’s house. His second house is a five-bedroom “cabin” on a lake peninsula in one of Minnesota’s No. 1 weekender destinations. His third “vacation” home is a six-bedroom, eight-bathroom, six-fireplace mansion (plus guest house) in one of the most exclusive resort communities in North America.
He also owns three SUVs and a sports car to go along with his two boats, two watercraft, two motorcycles, three snowmobiles and golf cart. One day his wife decided she wanted a new vehicle, so she headed out and met with the sales rep for the Cadillac Escalade she wanted to buy. He answered her questions and, after she determined what she wanted, he was going to see about ordering it.
Now, in the nine months that it has been since she walked out of the dealership, this sales guy either decided he didn’t need the commission on the sale of a vehicle she was ready to spend more than $60,000 on, or he just didn’t have faith that this woman controlled the purse strings. She didn’t wait around, however. She went down the street and bought something else.
It’s surprising to me how someone can make a judgment like that. What makes it even more surprising is that Cadillac has recently repositioned itself with a new campaign that supposedly focuses on making its products more approachable to women. “Specifically,” reports Business Week magazine, “Caddy’s research calls them ‘Hot Moms,’ women who have careers and choose a car for themselves without checking with hubby.” Apparently, this mom wasn’t “hot” enough of a prospect.
Her career includes catering to her three sons who participate in snowboarding, downhill and water skiing, karate, lacrosse, soccer, hockey and myriad other activities — in addition to school, of course. So when it came time to upgrade vehicles, she was the decision maker.
Not so coincidentally, the 24-foot Sea Ray that she picked out is also named after her — Belle — and serves as a symbol for her love of the water. It was also no coincidence that their resort community home can be found in her — not her husband’s — home state.
This woman, like many of those who are surely approaching your business, makes the buying decisions in her family. The question is: are you treating them differently than the Caddy dealer did?
I was a relative newbie at this magazine when we published the cover article, “Women Making Waves” back in 2003. The concept, I believed at the time, was incredible, but the fact that the marine industry had to conceive such a program — and others like it — to remind us to serve the boating needs of this specific demographic was somewhat embarrassing and sophomoric.
When times are tough like they are in the boating industry, it takes more than just a philosophy like this — or Caddy’s. It takes the execution of the philosophy that everyone’s a prospect. I hope you’re taking that seriously these days.

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