How to Sell Synthetic Motor Oils
part one

by Ed Newman
Marketing & Advertising Coordinator, AMSOIL INC.

Here's the issue: How do we sell synthetic motor oils? Let's think about it. Why do we even ask this question? One reason we ask is because we know it isn't as easy as falling off a log. If it were easy, considering the higher profit margins and better engine protection, everyone would be selling it.

Instead we're acutely aware that the price of synthetic motor oil is significantly higher than conventional petroleum based motor oil. Why would consumers want to buy a product that is two to five time more expensive than what they are accustomed to paying? To sell synthetics we need to have an answer to this question.

The average person doesn't give much thought to what goes on inside their vehicle's internal combustion engine. How many people go to a party and start a conversation with, "Do you know what my oil did today?" People are not informed about synthetic lubricants, nor is it a burning desire in their hearts to get informed.

Selling synthetic motor oil is a challenge, then, for two reasons. First, because it costs more. Second, because motor oil is not something consumers give much thought to, other than being vaguely aware that it needs to be changed from time to time.

At the risk of sounding cliche, we all know that consumers are ultimately concerned about only one thing: "What's in it for me?" This is why we need to take time to not only understand the features of synthetic lubricants, but also understand the benefits they offer.

Most of us have at least a nutshell understanding of the difference between conventional and synthetic motor oils. Conventional motor oils are refined from crude oil that has been pumped from the ground. Refining is a process that physically separates light and heavy components and valuable material from valueless. Synthetic motor oils are the result of a chemical reaction called "synthesis." The end result is a molecular uniformity impossible to achieve with refining processes.

The key features of synthetic lubricants are three in number. One, because they are derived from pure chemicals, synthetics contain no contaminants. Their fundamental purity protects them from the degradation that contaminants invite. Two, their smoother molecular uniformity that assists to more effectively reduce friction. This uniform structure also helps synthetics resist thinning in heat and thickening in cold, enabling them to provide better protection over a wider operating temperature range. Three, synthetics are designable. Scientists can customize synthetic lubricants to fulfill nearly every lubricating need, for even the most demanding conditions.

Now, how does this translate into benefits for the customer? And are these benefits worth the extra price tag? If you're not convinced, you'll have a difficult time persuading Glenda, Roger and Lucille (your next three customers).

Let's run through some of the benefits offered by synthetic motor oil. They will be addressed in no particular order of importance. It will note the feature or characteristic, and follow with the details.

* Superior friction reduction.
This means reduced engine wear, which helps engines last longer and require fewer repairs. This also helps improve fuel economy. Cars can get better mileage per gallon.

* Cooler operation.
Because they reduce friction better, engines run cooler. It may not be noticed from the driver's seat, but it can be noticed while straddling a hot motorcycle engine. Cooler engines resist stress and wear. As a result, engines last longer, perform better and require fewer repairs.

* Thermal and oxidative stability.
Because of their more inherent stability, synthetic motor oils have a greater resistance to the formation of sludge, varnish, deposits and other by-products of lubricant degradation. This means engines stay cleaner, which helps them last longer, perform better and require fewer repairs.

* Low temperature fluidity.
The low pour point with synthetics is one of the most visible demonstrations one can make, and in northern tier states it becomes a strong selling point for synthetics. Here in Minnesota we have engine heaters and people plug their cars in during the coldest winter months. Synthetics, some of which flow to seventy below zero, allow easier cold starts. The oil flows more quickly to critical moving parts, providing better protection against wear during start-ups. Reduced wear means fewer repairs.

* Broad temperature range of application.
This means there is better engine protection at both high and low temperatures.

* Extended service life capability.
Because most synthetic motor oils last longer than conventional oils, motorists needn't live in fear when they fail to service their vehicles in -- Ooops! Maybe we'll save our discussion on this one for next time.

In football, or any sport, the first battle is the battle within. You must believe that you can win before you successfully go to war. Motivational speakers try to fire people up to make them believe in themselves and their dreams. This doesn't work when it is hype and hot air. Truth is the most powerful motivator, and the most liberating.

To sell synthetics you need to believe in the product, that it meets a need, and believe that customers are willing to pay extra for the benefits synthetic motor oils offer. This is really the first step. No one with integrity is going to be happy for long selling a product they don't believe in.

Obviously, not every car or customer is a candidate for synthetic motor oil, and we'll talk about that next time, too. By asking the question, however, by offering a choice..... you may be surprised how many people will say "Yes, I want that," because the truth is, it really does meet a need.

This article originally appeared in National Oil and Lube News, November 1998.


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