What Drives a Mass Maven? Ask The VW Sales Guy!

This past weekend, I did something no man welcomes:  The dreaded car-buying event.  Sure, we men love to shop for cars, but buying one is another thing altogether.  I abhor salespeople botching heavy-handed “closing techniques,” fake chumminess, the sexism of telling my wife about cup holders and showing me the engine, and one of my least-favorite lines in the human language, “I’m not sure that’s gonna fly—I’ll have to check with my manager.”  Yes, this weekend was all that and more, but in the end we snagged our car and I got the chance to meet and learn from a Mass Maven (and now so can you).

A while back, I published a report and blog post that  briefly introduced two types of Mass Influencers—Mass Connectors and Mass Mavens. Next week, Forrester will release a new report that defines Mass Influencers in more detail, but this weekend I had the opportunity to study a Mass Maven in the wild.  So, grab your pith helmet and join me as we embark on a Mass Influencer safari.

My journey started with a decision to purchase a convertible. (Hey, we may have moved to Northern California, but it’s still California!)  First stop was a dealership to look at the new VW Eos.  Our salesperson was—how can I put this delicately?—uninformed.  When asked what the difference was between the two versions of the vehicle, he answered, “One has more features” and left it at that.  

Our next stop was a dealer to check out the Chrysler Sebring.  The sales manager handed us off to—in his words—his “Sebring expert.”  As we strolled the lot, we learned the “expert” had worked there for one month and knew next to nothing about the car.  

After two strikes, we ended up at Weatherford BMW, where our experience was so great they earned our trust, the sale, and a link in this blog post.  The salesperson treated us respectfully, and when he didn’t know an answer, he didn’t try to fake it—he went and got the answer.  (We bought a used VW Eos convertible, and doing so promptly angered the weather gods who delivered unto San Francisco 48 straight hours of the coldest, wettest weather possible in California.  My apologies to the 7.5 million people in metro San Francisco.)

But, as happy as I was with the BMW dealership, it was not here that I ran into the Mass Maven.  I found our exemplary Mass Influencer while seeking information about my new used car.  The owner’s manual was missing, and the interior of the VW Eos is awash with strange and delightful buttons begging to be pushed.  I pushed one, turned off the automatic transmission while on the highway, couldn’t figure out how to get it back into automatic, and promptly decided I needed to learn more about my car.

That is how I happened upon the VW Sales Guy.  Jay Pichardo maintains a blog at AskaVWSalesGuy.com and a YouTube channel. To date he has created 58 helpful video clips with features, secrets, and practical information about Volkswagen vehicles.  Several of his videos taught me things I didn’t know, and they may have saved me some future repairs.  (How was I supposed to know you shouldn’t slam the high-tech trunk lid on the Eos?)

Jay is a prototypical Mass Maven.  Mass Mavens are people who have opinions and information to share and do so in social channels such as blogs, forums, and rating and review sites.  He is an expert on VWs and shares this knowledge to many, many people.  His YouTube videos have had almost 400,000 views, his channel has 737 subscribers and his blog gets over 2,000 unique visitors a month.  (The official Volkswagen YouTube channel is five times older than Jay’s and has just 50% more subscribers.)

So, what drives a Mass Maven?  I asked Jay, and the answer isn’t that surprising—he likes to share.  I probed if he began his online efforts with a goal of increasing sales or prospects, and Jay said:

“When I got into this it was never with money or increased sales as the objective.  The idea came up when everyone I worked with was always coming to me for answers.  I had to keep stopping what I was doing to help out other people, so I said you know what? I’m gonna record this and post it on YouTube.”

There’s a lot to learn in that statement:  Jay had offline influence before he had online influence.  He was a source of information and wanted to bring his experience to others.  And he does what he does because he wants to share his enthusiasm and knowledge, not because he expects ROI. 

Volkswagen, to its credit, handled their Mass Maven brilliantly.  Jay didn’t ask permission to represent the brand because—in a statement that perfectly symbolizes the new empowerment of the social era—“I didn't really think I needed it.”  And when the company found out that a VW sales guy was speaking on behalf of the brand to tens of thousands of people, they didn’t shut Jay down but instead saw an opportunity for education.  Says Jay, “The folks from VW's media agency contacted me early on letting me know the dos and don’ts, (and) feedback has always been positive thus far.”

Volkswagen didn’t stop there—they recognized the good work Jay was doing and rewarded him.  Jay received a letter from J.D. Power and Volkswagen thanking him and awarding him VW Generation Bucks, financial incentives given to sales professionals.  And what does a Mass Maven do when given a financial award?  Jay was happy to use the incentive to purchase a new HD camera so he could improve the video on his YouTube channel!

Keep up the good work, Jay.  If I ever find myself in the market for a new car near Chesapeake, VA, you'll be hearing from me.

NOTE:   You may be thinking to yourself that it was a long walk to get from my decision to purchase a car to reach Mass Maven Jay Pichardo, and you would be right.  You see, I’m a Mass Maven too, and another thing to know about Mass Mavens is that we believe in the power of shaming brands (and many Mass Mavens wouldn’t have hesitated to name and shame the car dealers who failed so miserably to meet expectations) and of praising brands. 

Am I abusing the power of the Forrester blog to promote a local dealership, improve their search engine relevance and perhaps spark a few clickthroughs?  Yep, because that is what we Mass Mavens do.