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MÄRKLIN & RAILROADS : A personal view by Christian Vinaa

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Written by
Christian Vinaa - May 2014

"That's how I see it . . ."

Theme : Model railroad clubs

Man is a social creature. Man thrives in a community. Except the lone-wolves who thrive by themselves.

The typical model-railroader is a curious mix of both.

But I'm about to explain why model railroad clubs are essential, and why Märklin should do a lot more to support existing clubs and help the creation of new clubs.

Märklin has its own clubs ( "Märklin Insider" - "FC Märklin - Märklin-Fan-Club" - "Märklin Minis" and now clubs for "Start-Up" and "my world" ) where Märklin cultivates the faithfull buyers. You can read about these clubs on Märklin Fan Club

All around Germany and most of Europe Märklin Insiders ( and Märklin model-railroaders ) have created MIST-clubs.

MIST - Märklin-Insider-StammTisch is a club that the members create themselves. There are no rules or directives / orders from Märklin, but Märklin supports the MISTs with various promotional items.

Children and model railroad clubs

As I see it, ordinary model-railroad clubs "accept" children as members when the children is of a certain age. In fact when the child is not so childish anymore.

Then the child can enjoy a club and the club can enjoy the child and the work that the child puts into model-railroading.

Afterall - children can be a nuisance if you want serious work done building a modular layout.

But the clubs also experience that the teenagers leave the club and model-railroading when they finish school, get their drivers license and women enter their lives.

Some few hang on, but that is the natural way of life, and nothing Märklin does will change that.

But in the long run, a majority of these teenagers will return to model-railroading as grown-ups. Some as late as at pension-age. Others when their children move out and suddenly there are spare rooms in the house.

But my point is that Märklin has to get children organized in ACTIVE clubs - not just a member-ship to a passive Märklin club, that basically is just a marketing club.

Märklin should create / support "my world" playgroups where children, under supervison, could meet and build "my world" layouts.

These playgroups of course depends solely on the parents, but anything that will facilitate the daily life of busy parents will be a success.

Märklin could start by creating an internet forum where parents could meet and create playgroups in their neighborhood.

Märklin already participates in the ➚ where school-classes can build a layout; but that is in the school - basically for the "Start Up" children.

Märklin should do something similar for the "my world" kinder-garten children.

Why is Märklin not more active ?

But why doesn't Märklin develop the relation-ship with the grown-up customers / Insider / MIST-members ?

My argument is a simple one. Each individual model-railroader, as a person, is at a constant risk of dropping out of the hobby.

Family, job and other interests pulls the model-railroader away from model-railroading.

Some, perhaps many, continue with the hobby despite these other forces, but some drop out of the hobby; - a few even for good.

If a model-railroader belong to a club, where you actually build on a layout - whether it's a complete layout or a modular one - there is much less risk af dropping out.

Its just like excercise. If you do it alone, you tend to skip some sessions, and end up dropping working out. If you are part of a group, that takes a walk once a week, the risk of skipping a date and dropping out is much smaller.

But arn't the MIST clubs enough ? Well - MISTS are what the members decide them to be, but as long as they are "only" a meeting ground for people who happen to share the same hobby, there is a risk of dropping out of a MIST too. Talking is only interesting for a short while.

But - once people get into actually building and running trains . . .

Should Märklin do anything ?

First I take it for granted that Märklin will benefit from supporting model railroad clubs. Every single person who remains with the hobby means more sales for Märklin.

Märklin has it easy with one group of the faithfull customers - the collectors.

It is easy to know what the collectors want : They either want a complete collection or they want detail, detail and detail and then accuracy on top of all the details. "Nietenzähler" ( rivet counter ) is the collector who wants 100 % accuracy.

I usually say that if Märklin would produce a container car with the month and the year printed on the container, they could sell plenty of these each new month. Collectors will buy ANYTHING to have a complete collection. Of course the more interesting the car, the more collectors will collect.

The other faithfull group is the one that build layouts and run their trains. This group is much more diversified, but most of them wants . . . what wasn't there last year.

I've never ever really come across a model-railroader who said : "Nah - I don't need any more trains". I guess it's like women and shoes.

So the excitement of buying something new is what makes this financial symbiosis between Märklin and the model-railroader work.

What can Märklin do ?

I guess it is all about appreciation - being appreciated - not being treated like a cash-cow.

I hope that Märklin's new owners ( the Siebers ) do a lot of customer-researching. Getting to know your customers should be the number one concern for any new management.

There already has been a questionaire for z-model-railroaders; however the questionaire was on paper.

Seriously ? In our internet-age Märklin doesn't use the internet to conducts polls ?

Of course not 100 % of the Märklin customers are on the internet, but I'll bet that it's over 90 % , and even over 90 % is an acceptable target group.

And Märklin - since the input is of REALLY great value to you ( presuming that you'll not just ask what model Märklin should make in 2017 ) there should be a reward of real model-railroad value for every member completing the poll. Remember ? Appreciation !

Märklin should also be more outgoing in regards to the MHI / Märklin dealers. I know that there are digital seminars from time to time ( even with a special car you can buy if you attend the seminar ), but how about making regular visits to key shops presenting future models; the guy from Märklin could even bring along pre-production models for Insiders to admire.

Last, but not least : Märklin is way too passive in regard to supporting the MIST-clubs. Insider members, generally, get benefits showing their cards at various events etc. but there is nothing special for MIST members.

The MIST-clubs get a lot of publicity and get mentioned a lot in the "Märklin Insider News", but that is about it. Yes - the MISTs can get promotional items etc, but what about some model-railroad financial perks :
  • Membership of a MIST gives you a special discount at your favourite dealer.
  • MISTs can apply for a visit from Märklin where Märklin shows and demonstrates the newest items even pre-production examples.
  • etc

Using the internet.

Why does Märklin think that Göppingen is situated in the middle of Germany ?

It actually is quite difficult to travel to Göppingen for most Germans, let alone foreigners. So why have all the seminars at the Erlebniswelt ?

Why not use the internet and make some seminars open for all Insiders ?

The talks, that Insiders can have with the management at the "Märklin Tage" and at the "Open Door" - Tag der Offenen Tür; - why not broadcast that on the internet ?

The internet is a wonderfull way for having not only one-way communication but also 2-way communication.

Märklin should use that in order to keep in touch with the MIST clubs.

FInal idea - why not create a FORUM just for MIST clubs ?

end of line

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2014 -
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