Marketing Lesson from a Cop — Offering a Lesser Alternative

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Yesterday I got pulled over. I got that sinking feeling when you see yourself get clocked, about 2 seconds too late. The motorcycle officer wasn’t even hidden. I saw him early enough I could have literally pulled up to him, as a convenience to both of us.

I looked in my rear view mirror, hoping to find a reckless driver coming from behind me. No such luck…it was me who was accelerating away from a pack of cars. I hit the brake, hoping to throw off his reading. Instead I dipped the grill to the ground, further indicting myself. It didn’t matter…he had already begun holstering his radar gun, readying his Honda for his 33rd ticket that day

According to Officer Rodriguez, I was going 40mph in a 30 zone. That should be within a margin of error, in my opinion. I didn’t tell him that. He was polite and efficient. He recited the facts of my violation twice as fast as I was speeding. “yakety wiki blah blah …license and proof of insurance”. I already had my wallet out. “Please take it out of…” Duh! I headed off his sentence with action. As he investigated my license, I reached over to unlatch the glove compartment, which sprang open from the pressure of service papers and previous years’ proof of insurance.

You see, every six months I receive a new proof of insurance. Every six months I put the new paper in the glove compartment, but fail to remove the previous one. As a result, while Officer Rodriguez patiently waited, I shuffled through no less than 8 proofs of insurance dating back to ’03. Despite my bi-annual diligence, I failed to find my current papers. We laughed.

So, Officer Rodriguez offers to let me go on the speeding violation and instead write me up for failure to show current insurance. Alright! This is much better than a speeding ticket! All I have to do is take it to the court, show my proof, and there’s no cost. No driving school! No insurance hike!

Here’s what I find interesting about this experience (from a marketing perspective)…

If I had my current insurance, the officer would likely cite me for speeding. It would be his only choice, other than to let me go “scott free.” However, because I presented him (unintentionally) with an alternative — and we built some rapport (a laugh) — he chose the lesser violation.

Think about the choices we give customers. On a call, a visit to the site, a visit to the store – in that experience are they presented with an alternative to go up or down on any purchase? Do you have enough choices? If so, as marketers we most commonly upsell. But what if you were to downsell? What if you were to present a lesser choice?

If you haven’t noticed, today’s customers are skeptical. They smell marketing like 3-day old fish. You want to build trust? You want to close a sale? Offer the customer a lesser choice which can demonstrably meets their needs in a meaningful way. Give customers a good, better, best choice. Most people will come in on the good, get excited about the best, and close the sale on the better. Perhaps they will spend money with you again, or spend what’s left in their wallet with you in another way.

3 Responses

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