By Roy H. Williams
Businesses don’t fail due to reaching the wrong people. Businesses fail when they say the wrong things. And they say the wrong things when they believe what the public tells them.
Conduct a survey. Ask the public to describe in detail the kind of place they’d like to shop. Then build that place, exactly as described, and see if they ever show up.
Experience tells us they won’t.
We’ll use furniture stores as an example. People say they want a store where they can look at all the different styles of furniture, see all the different patterns and colors of fabric and grains of wood and colors of wood stain, and then have their own ‘dream furniture’ made according to their choices. Today you’ll find that furniture store on every corner. “And we’ll even show you on a computer monitor exactly what your new sofa will look like! Want to see it in another fabric? Click this button. Another color of wood? Click this button. And we’ll deliver it to your home, direct from the factory! You’ll be buying factory direct!”
His real name is Jim McIngvale. They call him Mattress Mac. Twenty-five years ago he dove headlong into the furniture business with just five thousand dollars. It’s all he had. This year that furniture store will do nearly 200 million dollars in a single location, placing it among the most successful stores in the world.
Jim occasionally buys a day of my time to pick my brain and bounce ideas off me. I should be paying him.
During our last visit, I asked my friend if I could share the secret of his success with you. Graciously, he allowed it: As simple as this may sound, Jim’s 200 million dollar secret is immediate delivery. When people buy new furniture, they want to see it in their home immediately. “Buy it today and we’ll deliver it tonight,” is Jim’s angle. He doesn’t do special orders. “If you see it, we’ve got it.” Remember all those people who said they wanted to pick from a large selection of fabrics and wood grains? Tell them you’ll deliver their new sofa in 8 to 12 weeks. Then Jim will show them something entirely different but offer to deliver it immediately. Guess who usually wins?
What people say they would do is rarely what they will actually do. This is what makes it foolish to put too much faith in surveys. We don’t know ourselves as well as we think.
Ask any real estate agent. The homes people buy are never the ones they described to the agent when they got in the car. Not even close.
Now let’s talk about you. Chances are, you’ve been reaching the right people all along. You’ve just been saying the wrong things. Some ads are like waving raw meat in front of hungry dogs. Most ads are lectures, explaining to these same dogs all the joys of organic popcorn.
Do you have a tasty message to deliver to the world? Or are you expecting your ad writers to apply a thick layer of creativity to hide the fact that you have nothing to say?
Truthfully, what percentage of your ads say anything worth hearing?
Sholem Asch was right when he said, “Writing comes more easily if you have something to say.” But Morris Hite said it brazenly, “If you have a good selling idea, your secretary can write your ad for you.”