Are You Still Selling Station Wagons?

Vista Cruiser 1965 Oldsmobile

Some of you might not even know what they are. Back in the 50’s and 60’s, station wagons were the transportation of choice for families with kids and busy lifestyles. Typically configured to carry five to eight people if necessary, this is how many families travelled across the country on their summer vacations. Every manufacturer had one or more station wagon models and they sold very well. Sales people were happy.

Minivan 1984Then in 1984, Plymouth rolled out it’s new Voyager Minivan and that began the rapid decline of the station wagon. Minivans provide the same basic function, moving five to eight people  from spot to spot, becoming very popular almost immediately. Sales of these minivan’s boomed for over a decade, with most manufacturer’s offering several lines to choose from. Sales people were very happy.

Minivan’s became the vehicle of choice for busy families and some say the term “soccer mom” was coined when the parking lots at soccer practice were filled with mom’s dropping off the neighborhood kids to practice.

Eventually, this popular choice went out of style as well, becoming the antithesis of “cool”. It was to be replaced by whatRed Mummer 3 became known as the SUV, or sports utility vehicle.  Generally serving the same basic functions of moving between five to eight people from point A to point B. Some of these had 4-wheel drive but other than that, offered pretty much the same capabilities and utility. Sales of minivan’s dropped like a rock, and everyone clamored to get themselves a SUV. Sales people were very happy selling lots and lots of SUV’s.

Then gas prices started climbing, and the environment became much more of a focus for mainstream American vehicle buyers. Big, gas-guzzling, off-roading monster trucks were now ridiculously expensive to operate, and were even becoming the target for graffiti and environmental protesters.

Chevy Traverse crossoverIn response to these market realities, SUV sales dropped way off, and several manufacturers stopped production entirely. In it’s place now sits the Crossover.  Not as tall or big in outward size as an SUV, yet still designed to move between five and eight people from destination to destination. Manufacturers are adding new models at a record pace, and many models are available only by adding your name to a lengthy waiting list. Sales people are very happy selling these crossovers. Take a look at the Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser at the top of the post and then each of the vehicles that replaced it in succession. Each served almost the exact same function, became very popular in it’s time and looks fairly similar. Yet a station wagon is not a station wagon in the customers’ eyes

It’s all in the name!

Are you still selling station wagons? Have your products kept up with the changing preferences and terminology favored by the public? Your solution might still be capable of delivering five to eight people from point A to point B, but that is not enough on it’s own. Words matter in the real world.  Which ones we use to convey our offerings can make the difference between falling sales and a waiting list. Are you paying attention to the names of your products and services?

One of the free tools to help you gain an understanding of what is “hot” or not with your prospective customers is Google’s Adwords Keyword Tool. This two-minute video shows how to use this tool to find out how your product name (station wagon) compares to other names that the public is searching for on Google. (View full screen for best results)

YouTube Preview Image

I hope I have stimulated your thoughts a bit and hope I was able to get you thinking about what you call your products and services and if a name change might be able to give your sales effort a fresh boost.  It is sure helping those selling Crossovers.

Just for the fun of it, guess what is one of the hottest sellers in the new model year? Cadillac’s new CTS Sports Wagon – yes, a Station Wagon is once again hot.

Cadillac CTS Sport Wagon

  • http://Sellingfearlessly.com Robert Terson

    A terrific analogy to make the point of needing to adapt to changing preferences and terminology. Forty-one years ago, before I went into business for myself selling advertising to small businesspeople, I had a boss who loved the expression “Adapt or Die”; it’s stayed with me all these years, which is why this 67-year-old guy has embraced social media while so many of my peers avoid it like the plague. Great post, really enjoyed it!

    • http://www.fillthefunnel.com Miles Austin

      Robert, Adapt or Die, might not ever have been more significant than it is today. Change is everywhere we look, so might as well embrace it and enjoy the thrill of learning new things. No question you must really stand out from your peers and their concerns about social media. Way to go!

  • http://keepupwiththeweb.com Sherryl Perry

    This is an excellent title for this post. I knew where you were headed the second I read it.I have often looked at some of these huge SUVs and remembered how popular station wagons were. My favorite memory of a station wagon is the one from Mod Squad. (Now, that’s really going back.) Fun, well-written post. I’m sharing! :)

    • http://www.fillthefunnel.com Miles Austin

      Thanks Sherryl,

      Mod Squad, now that is going back in time! I think my favorite memory of station wagons is sitting in the very back of the vehicle, with the seats that faced out the back window, especially when we prevailed on our Dad to roll the back window down! Thanks for sharing your memories!

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  • http://bit.ly/ayeen2 Ayeen Benoza

    Hi Miles! It brought back memories during my early 20’s when my first job was to sell office chairs. Every year we promote new designs and add bits of technical features, but in general, the function is the same – -it’s a chair, and we all sit on it. During the Stone Age, dinosaurs became extinct because they were not able to adapt to the environment changes. In my present company it’s all about creating blueprints for automated marketing. Even if we have the latest automation, SFA, CRM, email marketing systems, business processes, etc., every chance we get – we create new designs, explore new options, and if needed – do some re-engineering in management. Thanks for this post Miles, it’s great that we get constant reminders to always be on our toes. http://bit.ly/ayeen2

  • http://thesignsalesman.blogspot.com Isaac Duke

    Great article! If only I can get my company to understand that people use the internet. Whatever the case, I am going to start following this blog. I am always looking for ways to ‘fill the funnel’

    Thank you, Miles!

  • http://www.mcbuzz.com/ Mark McLaren – Seattle SEO

    Miles – Excellent suggestion. Checking product and service names for search volume is quick and easy to do with the Google Keyword Tool. It’s also great to do when creating content for a website or blog, especially page titles and headings.

    If you don’t mind my being a smart-a** online marketer for a moment, the title of this current post could be improved by adding keywords. “Are You Still Selling Station Wagons?” is a good title because it catches people’s attention and makes them want to read or click. But it’s not REALLY what your post is about. When Google looks at that title tag, it will take you literally and assume that your post is about selling station wagons. How about the title “Using Keywords in the Names of Products and Services: Are You Still Selling Station Wagons?” or “Keyword Marketing: Are You Still Selling Station Wagons?” Those would even better titles because they say what the post is really about and include keywords related to your topic – AND they still have the appeal of the original question.

    When it comes to using share buttons, short titles are essential. My first suggestion might be too long. But some plugins let you edit those so they are still zippy, like your original Station Wagons question.

    From the number of tweets this post has already gotten, it’s clear that you and your network already do an awesome job of getting the word out about your posts. Combine that with improved titles and you will be able to use social media to lay a foundation for improved search ranking for your core keywords.

    • http://www.fillthefunnel.com Miles Austin

      Hi Mark, Great to see you stopping by. Your comments are spot on regarding the title, keywords etc.. I am sure that your suggestions would prove beneficial in the search engine game. I do love to see continued increase in traffic due to search engine results, but I also value brevity if it benefits my readers. It reminds me of the practice that some “experts” teach about LinkedIn profiles, where they recommend writing the entire profile for the benefit of a search engine. While I understand the value of having search find the profile, I also value having a profile that a human can read and make sense of.

      I always enjoy your writing and the workshops that we have done together, and respect your guidance. Most importantly, I appreciate you taking the time to share your recommendations that will definitely help my writing be found by more people and have titles that better describe the post.

      Let’s do another workshop this fall!

  • http://www.mcbuzz.com/ Mark McLaren – Seattle SEO

    Another workshop would be awesome. Let’s do it!

    I understand your concerns regarding the importance of writing for people first. Writing for search engines alone is a patently bad idea. When it comes to online marketing, quality writing trumps everything else. But if you don’t take search engines into consideration, you will have a much harder time getting new readers to land on your pages. From that standpoint, maybe “Keyword Marketing Tips: Are You Still Selling Station Wagons?” would be a good compromise as a title. And remember, your HTML title tag does not have to be the same as the visible title (heading) on the page. You can change the title tag using a WordPress SEO plugin.

    At the moment, this post ranks #2 in Google for “selling station wagons”. That’s a great ranking! Unfortunately, it’s not the topic of your post. The topic is more like, “In business, it’s essential to choose words people actually use – or use most often – when you talk about your products and services.” One way to characterize that summary might be “keyword marketing”. Wouldn’t it be great to be on page 1 of Google for something like “keyword marketing tips” or “sales and keyword marketing tips”? With your social media skills and a little bit of content optimization, it’s within your reach!

  • http://optioneerjm.blogspot.com/ Jeannette Marshall (optioneerJM)

    I adore the analogy utilized here Miles!
    It is one of the best examples I’ve seen on how sales is evolving — from customers seeking out a product … to developing or naming a product based on what consumers may want. I enjoy reading a ton about Steve Jobs and his success with Apple and it matches what you are saying here, you just said it better.
    My husband loves the UK version of “Top Gear” and the Subaru Legacy (I think it’s called) has stayed popular because it can carry a group of passengers, highly functional, while taking eco into consideration.
    If I were a car manufacturer, or in car sales, I would take the time to understand that SUVs have negative associations as “gas guzzlers” which is the new uncool.
    As always, enjoy what you put forth Miles,
    Jeannette

    • http://www.fillthefunnel.com Miles Austin

      Thanks Jeanette. I had never heard of “Top Gear”, interesting. I, too enjoy reading about Steve Jobs, but I would find it hard to believe that I said it better than he.

      You know better than most, and have adjusted to the continually shifting selling environment. It can be tiring to continue to be moving and changing with our customers needs, but the alternative is not a pleasant one. I for one, want to continue to enjoy my selling activities so am willing to put in the hours, the reading, the listening and the research to stay current with my customers expectations and needs.

      Always great to have you stop by and share some of that Canadian wisdom with us all!