How Big Brands can leverage education and solution selling to excel in the EV marketplace.
Businesses and consumers alike are feeling the pressure of rising fossil fuel costs, which has many seeking alternate options. This, along with growing environmental concerns, creates new opportunities for marketing electric vehicles (EVs) and the supporting infrastructure to small businesses. EVs are no longer exclusive to luxury brands like Tesla, with almost 40 different manufacturers currently producing or developing plans for electric vehicles of all shapes and sizes – including fleet vehicles for Small Businesses.
“The expectation is that 15-20 years from now, other than classic cars, the majority of usage will be with an electric vehicle.”
While it’s true that electric vehicles have a higher upfront cost than their gas-powered counterparts, evolving to an electric fleet can help Small Businesses realize long-term cost savings, advance sustainability initiatives, and grow their workforce by attracting and retaining talent. However, many Small Business Owners have no idea where the EV ecosystem stands, let alone how their business can benefit. It’s up to Big Brands to provide the education these business owners need to make an informed decision about the future of their fleets.
Education as a Marketing Initiative
“To a Small Business, vehicles are just tools.”
Take a moment to think about the evolution of the power drill. Originally, the drill required a constant flow of electricity to operate. When an initial battery-powered model was developed, the battery didn’t last long enough for professional use. So, we tackled that problem by introducing powerful, rechargeable, swappable battery packs that were more expensive upfront, but offered reliable portability. Today, 19-volt battery power tools are the standard for just about every jobsite.
To get to this point of widespread adoption, brands had to leverage education as a marketing initiative. By leading with the benefits these new power drills could provide – all the power of an electric drill in a compact, cordless, portable package – brands positioned these tools as a solution for construction sites with limited access to electricity, contractors on the go, and more.
EVs present the same concept. These vehicles are battery-powered solutions that provide long-term benefits to an SMB’s brand and their bottom line. To convince SBOs that it’s time to consider a switch, brands must provide education on these benefits.
Long-Term Cost Savings
Before considering the switch to electric, the Small Business Owner will always think about their bottom line. Electric vehicles offer immediate cost savings on fuel – a major selling point in today’s environment. Because EVs have no internal combustion engine, they require fewer moving parts. Therefore, maintenance costs are significantly less for an EV than a gas-powered vehicle.
For example, the cost for routine maintenance on a gas-powered fleet vehicle is about 22-25 cents per mile. An electric alternative, however, only costs about 5 cents per mile to maintain. That’s more than a 4x cost savings per vehicle on maintenance alone. This offers SMBs with fleet vehicles the opportunity for unprecedented long-term cost savings.
The EV industry is unique because the ecosystem is still being built. This gives Big Brands, together with their SMB partners, the opportunity to improve brand perception among customers and employees by impacting the space in their own way.
For example, Sheetz, a fuel station and convenience store chain, has partnered with Tesla to install EV charging stations at many of their locations. This shift sends a future-focused message to Sheetz customers and current and prospective employees, while presenting the business with increased profit margin potential from customers who shop the convenience store while their vehicle charges.
Gas stations and other businesses often servicing SMB fleets can take inspiration from this example and apply similar innovative ideas. For instance, a Marathon location equipped with charging infrastructure could offer incentives to draw SMB fleet drivers who choose to charge at their location inside. This assures SMBs that as they evolve to electric fleets, their drivers will have a reliable network to recharge their vehicles and their mind. Plus, it provides the opportunity to develop new partnerships and improve brand perception by promoting environmental sustainability.
Selling the Solution of an EV Ecosystem
“Manufacturers need to think about this from a solution selling perspective. To offer the best experience with their electric fleets, they must become solution sellers and help educate the SMBs that want to move to electric, but don’t have a complete understanding of the overall impact.”
The rise of the EV industry brings more than a chance for cost savings, reducing emissions, and boosting a brand. It provides the opportunity to create a brand-new ecosystem that supports these customers through the entire life of their vehicle. By developing this ecosystem around electric vehicles, EV sellers can shift from marketing a product to marketing a solution.
The EV Infrastructure Challenge
Manufacturers can start developing this ecosystem now by considering the challenges an EV-powered world will face, and how they can innovate to address those challenges.
Perhaps the biggest challenge with going electric is charging infrastructure. Currently, most EVs can travel about 250-300 miles on a single charge. This makes long distances a challenge with EVs, because while plans to expand vehicle charging infrastructure are in the works, widespread options are simply not there yet. And they likely won’t be for several years.
It’s certainly possible to travel beyond 300 miles with an EV, but it will require more planning. The drivers will need to plan their routes around the location of public charging stations, which could make the trip longer than it would be with a gas-powered vehicle. Plus, making a charge stop is not the same as stopping for gas. Depending on the size of the battery and speed of the port, charging up could take an hour or more. Plus, commercial EVs typically require a different level of charging power than a rapid home charger can offer.
It’s up to EV businesses to tackle these challenges.
Solving EV Challenges with Innovation
Addressing these challenges will require innovation and solution-seller thinking. Businesses will need to enter the mindset of their EV fleet customer, and consider not just the vehicle itself, but the overall experience it provides. This will give brands the opportunity to know their customers even better and develop evolutionary concepts and materials, such as:
- Operational planning software to help a driver map out their charging station route.
- Charging infrastructure for commercial fleets and/or customers and employees.
- In-depth training on effectively operating and caring for the machine.
- New business concepts to service EVs, such as battery replacement and recycling.
- An EV purchase isn’t just about buying a vehicle. It’s about purchasing a solution that offsets rising fuel costs, helps protect the environment, and promotes positive brand reputation, all while providing a complete experience people can’t wait to talk about.
Shape the Experience with Marketing
The rise of electric vehicles will change the world as we know it. We’ll see environmental shifts, massive changes to infrastructure, and even a re-imagined concept of automobile maintenance. This shift will give Big Brands an incredible opportunity to innovate, but also comes with a hefty responsibility to make the EV experience just as comfortable as a gas-powered alternative. At Cargo, we know shaping what this experience looks like is going to take incredible marketing prowess. We’re ready to answer this call. Are you?