The Client Had No Idea They Were Sitting On A Goldmine.
How To Turn The Seemingly Ordinary Into The Greatest Thing Ever.
By Rich Harshaw
The year was 1997 and I was less than 3 years into my career as a marketing guru.
Actually, guru status was the farthest thing from my mind. My main objective was to extend my winning streak with this client, Dynamo, Ltd. This was way before I got into construction marketing.
The company manufactured coin-operated amusements… stuff like pool tables, air hockey machines, foosball tables, and so forth.
Earlier in the year, I had hit a homerun for them with a product called “Top Brass Pool.” I had created an advertising campaign that very effectively convinced the owners of bars, bowling alleys, restaurants, and yes, even gentlemen’s clubs… that they could make more money from their pool tables by upgrading from the traditional green felt and wood colored pool table (50 cents per play) to the much fancier blue felt and black laminate version ($1.00 per play).
When truckload-sized orders started pouring in, my client was thrilled—they had been literally on the brink of bankruptcy 7 months earlier when they hired me. Now they were flush with cash—but also overflowing with great expectations.
So they tasked me with helping them sell more video game cabinets. Think of a Pac-Man machine—essentially a wooden box with a computer screen and some joysticks and some electronic stuff inside. They manufactured these raw “boxes” and sold them to the video game companies who then put software (games) in them and plastered the sides with eye-catching graphics.
As I sat down with them to go through an Identity consultation, I started with the usual line of questioning: What makes your cabinets better or different? Why would somebody want to buy them instead of the overseas models that cost half price? What makes your cabinet so darn special? If you’re already a Monopolize Your Marketplace client, these questions probably ring a bell.
Immediately they focused in on QUALITY. Nobody—and I mean nobody—I was told, built a higher quality, longer lasting video game cabinet than Dynamo. That I had the gall to even question their superiority was practically offensive to them. Everybody just KNOWS that Benz is the best car, right? Same thing with Dynamo cabinets, according to the half-dozen executives at the conference table.
Except the marketplace clearly hadn’t received that memo. The sales of these awesome cabinets were actually DOWN, and they needed a Hail Mary. When the foreign competitors are literally half price—and advertising those price points heavily—miracles may be required.
When I pressed them for details about the quality of the cabinets, the first explained that the cabinets were held together by 13 screws per side (26 total), not 8 like their competitors. Plus, they used a specialized screw-head that a kid couldn’t undo with a screwdriver from his dad’s toolbox. Yes, that was a real thing.
Got it. What else?
Well, they also used cleat and bracket construction; that’s a woodworking technique that uses a protruding piece of wood on one side to connect to the joining piece of wood for added strength.
“But so does everybody else. That’s just how you build cabinets,” they explained.
Great. What else?
After about 15 minutes of meandering discussion, one of the executives mentioned, almost apologetically, “Well, we use dowel rod construction.”
Dowel rod construction? What’s that? I mean, I know what a dowel rod is… but what does it mean in construction?
Short answer: they sink a ½” hole into one side of the wood, and another ½” hole into the adjoining piece of wood… then stick a 1” hardwood dowel rod in there, secure it with industrial strength wood glue, and let it dry. This adds a ton of lateral support, and improves the overall structural integrity of the cabinet.
That sounds pretty good.
“How many dowel rods do you use,” I asked?
They looked around the table at each other and shrugged their shoulders. Nobody knew.
I asked them who would know, and they said a guy named Dan ran the machine that drilled the holes. They called Dan into the meeting.
“I have no idea,” said Dan.
“Can you go count?” I asked.
A few minutes later he came back and looked down at a piece of paper where he had taken some notes.
“172,” announced Dan.
“172 what?” I asked.
“172 hardwood dowel rods in every cabinet,” he replied as he handed me a gherkin-sized dowel rod to emphasize the point.
“Holy crap. How do they even fit?” I wondered aloud. “How many dowel rods do your competitors use in their cabinets?”
(Silence. Head shaking. Awkward pause.)
“They don’t use any.”
Okay, let’s pause the story here for a minute.
Did you ever read my article about Confirmation Bias? The one where I told the story about the showerhead at the Holiday Inn Express? If not, stop right now and read it. If so, this is a PERFECT example of what I was talking about!
The idea of confirmation bias is to find stuff that you do that’s different, better and more awesome that your competitors—whether you’re marketing for HVAC, remodeling, or anything else–and point it out in your marketing so that people notice it, appreciate it, and give you the proper credit for (whatever you do that’s awesome).
When I asked to see the ads they were running in the industry trade journals, they showed me the following—check out the third bullet point in the list:
This is why manufacturers shouldn’t be allowed to create their own marketing. It’s all about the technical specs and details. There’s no sizzle. There’s no great promise. And there certainly isn’t any shower head being pointed at (read the Holiday Inn Express article if that reference went over your head).
I had a different idea.
How could we communicate quality, durability, and structural integrity without simply saying “strong” or “durable” or “high quality”?
How about this, for starters?
This ad was created for a FAX BROADCASTING campaign (it was 1997—email still wasn’t really a thing) and began sending out ads like the one above, and these:
And guess what happened? Truckload-sized orders all over again.
Think about your business. What makes you different? Better? Special? Awesome? Do you have a “172 dowel rod” advantage that you could talk about in your marketing?
Search this blog—there are dozens of examples of these kinds of ads—granular, specific, and powerful. Here are a bunch of radio ads you can listen to if you are so inclined:
Writing great ads starts with specificity and ends with power, precision, and passion. Find your 172 dowel rod story and watch your results explode.
Free Lead Generation Audit: We’ll perform an in-depth audit of your company’s website (HVAC professionals, home improvement contractors, and everyone else is welcome) and lead generation activities. Then we’ll spend 90 minutes on the phone with you discussing our findings… and conducting an Identity discovery session. This valuable marketing insight is worth $4,500, and is yours for FREE—if you meet the conditions.
© 2015 – 2016, Rich Harshaw. All rights reserved.