Do you know what a skip tooth chain is? If you own a chainsaw, a skip tooth chain is a steak knife. It cuts at roughly twice the speed of the comparatively meek sounding “homeowner’s chain.”
Why did I have to learn about this from the guy who trims my trees? (Just for the record, I’m very comfortable with the contention that somebody else — other than me — should climb thirty feet in the air and cut off several hundred pounds of wood with a handheld buzz saw). Why didn’t I learn about this from my chainsaw manufacturer? Or from my retailer? The guy who taught me what it was, how to cut hanging logs, how to unjam and sharpen and adjust my chainsaw wasn’t a guy who stood to gain anything. The people who stood to gain didn’t do anything.
My second story is a little sillier. I got an angry fax from the manufacturer of my second favorite watch. It’s in for repairs for the simple reason that it stopped working. When you spend many thousands of dollars for a watch, you expect it to work. So imagine my surprise to get an angry fax from them, reprimanding me over the condition of the watch. That I just sent to them. Because it wasn’t working. I’m not crazy about the condition either, specifically the part about it not actually telling time at this particular time.
They’ve got it for the next sixteen weeks — sixteen weeks! — to disassemble it, blow on it gently, massage the gears, and reassemble it. If I don’t have my second favorite watch for sixteen weeks, what am I going to wear on my wrist? Said another way, why is my second favorite watch company not sending me another watch to wear — maybe a slightly higher end one, maybe one I’d learn, over the next four months, that I simply, postively, absolutely couldn’t live without? What are you guys thinking? Oh, wait — I remember — you’re thinking that you’re disappointed in the condition of the watch of yours. You know, the one that I bought from you.
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> How could Stihl make every homeowner an expert in handling chain saws? A skip tooth chain is an upgrade. A pole saw is an additional purchase. A neighbor is a new customer. A dealer is a teacher. Knowledge spreads like rings in the water.
> If you were the marketing chief at Jaeger LeCoultre, how would you get your customers to buy more very expensive watches? Would you find ways to get more watches onto the wrists of people who love watches — their watches, in particular? Would you take a page from every auto repair shop in the country and send them postcards telling them it’s time to get their watch cleaned — just to make an excuse to start a new conversation? Yes, you’d need a pool of loaners, few of which would stay loaners for long. But that’s body and fender work.
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If you marketed $20,000 Wolf (semi-) commercial ranges to contractors, decorators and home owners, would you send people post-cards and send them to cooking school? You know, probably not. Why? People don’t use their commercial ranges. We do. The guy who fixes them out here on the Central Coast of California — and we broke one of our burners, naturally — was shocked to see signs of actual use on these expensive paper weights. They work beautifully, but they’re not meant to be used.
Why does this make some sort of sense? You buy a Wolf Range for your home’s resale value. And you usually don’t decide later to throw in a plate warmer and a wine rack cooler on impulse, unless your impulses run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
If you market a product that has legs, that has an upgrade path, that could lead to friends and neighbors to come by to learn from an expert, then it’s your job as a marketer to make experts happen as often as they can.
Photo courtesy of Flickr.
Stephen, the watch example reminds me of that one Seinfeld episode where Jerry is reprimanded for how he’s driving/caring for his BMW by his local mechanic. I think it’s truly amazing how many companies still have the mindset that they’re doing us a favor by letting us buy/look at/consider their wares.
Paul: I agree. I’d guess this is a hold-over from “exclusivity-based marketing” so common in luxury brands. They make no effort to make you an expert — they expect, as a result of their pricing and craftsmanship, that you are already an expert. Worse, many luxury brands simply aren’t designed to be used; they’re meant to be showpieces that are kept away from real life.