A Case Study in Influence : Hyundai

Everyone wants to be the best. If you aren’t the best, then chances are you’re looking to see who is and trying to emulate them. Put simply, influencers attract imitators.
Lately, Hyundai has proved to be a leader in the auto industry. While sales of competitors have slowed to a crawl, Hyundai has been cruising in the fast lane and gobbling up market share along the way. Other automakers are taking notice, and copying Hyundai’s strategies.

A decade ago, Hyundai introduced its eye-popping America’s Best Warranty, providing 10-yr, 100,000-mile powertrain protection. Rivals scrambled to follow suit, upgrading their own warranty offerings. More recently, Hyundai unveiled its Assurance program to give car buyers security in light of economic instability. Within months, GM released its Total Confidence plan, and Ford responded with the Ford Advantage.
Despite a terrible market, Hyundai’s influence has thrived. How has the Korean automaker been able to pioneer innovation within the American market?

Three Reasons for Hyundai’s Influence
1) Building Trust
Hyundai entered the U.S. market with a splash in 1986, selling more than 126,000 cars. Unfortunately for Hyundai, the splash was followed by a thud as buyers were greeted with a host of quality defects. The abysmal quality of its cars made the South Korean automaker the laughingstock of the industry. “How do you double the value of a Hyundai?” asked one joke, “Fill the gas tank.”
Reeling from quality concerns, Hyundai had to reestablish trust with wary consumers. In an attempt to do so, the company settled upon a marketing plan to offer over-the-top security to customers willing to buy Hyundai. Dangling the incentive of America’s Best Warranty, Hyundai won back the business of skeptical buyers.

However, convincing customers to buy was only half the battle. Could Hyundai satisfy them and earn repeat business? Thankfully for Hyundai, it was able to deliver quality and fix its image. In stepping up its caliber of manufacturing, Hyundai equaled and, in some cases, surpassed the Japanese automakers in measures of quality. By doing so, the company won back the trust of customers.

2) Initiating the Relationship
In rough financial times, customers don’t magically appear at your doorstep. The people and companies that go farther than others to connect with customers gain influence. While competitors withdrew high-profile advertisements to save money, Hyundai aggressively marketed itself during the Super Bowl and the Academy Awards.

3) Having a Timely Message
Not only did Hyundai invest to reach out to customers, it also crafted a compelling message that resonated with the concerns of American consumers. Unveiling the Assurance program, Hyundai assuaged potential buyers’ fears of job instability. At a time when rivals begged the government for a bailout, Hyundai pledged to bailout its customers who fell upon hard times.

Summary
The qualities that have allowed Hyundai to accelerate forward can enable you to excel as well. If you’re serious about growing in influence, trust is a must. Also, don’t wait for circumstances to thrust you into the spotlight; take action to initiate relationships in which you can lead. Finally, be aware of the context in which you’re leading, and communicate a message suited for the climate.

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