Heavyweight Marketing

Some people think Restoration Hardware’s catalog is “stupid.” It arrived in our office (actually, several copies did) a few years ago — 992 pages and 5.5 pounds each. That topped their prior mailing of their catalog last year which was 616 pages, weighing over three pounds. You can read about what people thought about the latest catalog here.

Companies just don’t do things like this without a reason. No one is saying that the reason they do it has to be good, or that you have to agree with it, but you just don’t decide to print and mail like this at the drop of a hat. So when a catalog this size arrives, you might think it is “stupid and a waste.” One guy said “it’s not green” because it seems like a waste of paper. Yea, right. I assure you there were very good reasons they mailed that catalog.

Anyone with a direct mail background knows this. The costs associated with such a mailing are immense, and any company who embarks on this effort (unless they are simply crazy) has a motive. Direct mailers are cost efficient: they hate waste, so I know that Restoration Hardware is not in the habit of waste simply because of the size of the catalog. And as far as “not green” enough is concerned, only people who are green would be offended (besides, can’t you grow more trees?).

Finding the motive for anything is one of the secrets of sales success. If you can figure out why people want to buy something, you’re almost across the finish line. People buy things for one of two reasons: to protect what they have, or to gain something. Before I tell you what I believe is one of the real reasons for this mailing (besides growing their business), ask yourself: are you doing heavyweight or lightweight marketing?

One of the bets Restoration Hardware is making on this is that people who receive this catalog will be impressed with the size and, therefore, will buy directly from them. Half of that bet will come true, and then they are half way home. Getting noticed has to precede any sale. Will the size offend some people? Perhaps, but then, Restoration Hardware probably doesn’t want that group as customers anyway. Heavyweight marketers know this: you can’t please everyone. You should go after your target audience, and forget the rest.

At the recent event for a client in Milwaukee, we were demonstrating our client’s product to attendees (designers). The client’s COO would take out a doorknob (architectural hardware, made in the USA), and drop it into the waiting hand of the designer who was inquiring at our small booth. When that happened, their mouth immediately dropped opened and their eyes got wide. Every one of them said, “Oh my God.” The quality was instantly apparent. The designer smiled, and a conversation ensued. It happened each and every time a designer would walk up to our table.

This is called sales by demonstration, and heavyweight marketers do this all the time. The same effect happens when you hand someone a 992-page catalog (or it lands on your desk). Shock and Awe. Disbelief. OMG.

But the questions behind such demonstrations still pester us. Naturally, we’re demonstrating the quality of the hardware to make an impression and, ultimately, a sale. Do you think Restoration Hardware’s motives are any different? Do you think they had some extra millions lying around so they printed up a bunch of these catalogs and then spent a fortune mailing them because they want to keep the Post Office in business?

This WSJ article will tell you what I believe is one of the important reasons behind this big mailing besides making money: Restoration Hardware is looking for $150M IPO. They have to look the role.

Ed Beane, one of my mentors, told me one time: “Act Big. Think Big. Be Big.” Ed ran an art studio. He had one client: Sears. Before he retired, he built his business around Sears and said, “When they call me and say jump, I say, ‘How High?’” Ed did OK in life. He was a natural salesman – concerned about his client, there to serve. He never complained he didn’t have any sales tools. He WAS the sales tool. He dressed impeccably. He always wore a tie. And he always smiled. He had an irresistible gleam in his eye. You couldn’t help but want to buy something from him.

You see, heavyweight marketers make it easy for people to say yes. Heavyweights never sell anything; people buy from them. It’s a subtle difference in the point of view, but an important one.

Ideas are difficult to sell, perhaps more so than quality architectural hardware. But in the end, they are the same. If you have passion for your product, offer new and refreshing ideas, you realize it isn’t about the product: it’s about you. Then you realize, there’s not much you can’t do. Is there?

We’re here to help our clients serve their customers. Sure, 992-page catalogs help. But there is no single piece of literature I know of that will be a substitute for the passion of a heavyweight marketer’s belief in the product and in him or herself. In fact, if you doubt the strategy they followed a few years ago, read this. You’ll find out that Restoration Hardware Holdings Inc. now has a market cap of $2.05 billion! That’s a heavyweight by anyone’s standards!

For more conversation about marketing, or to express your opinion about marketing, go to http://intrln.com/contact and let us hear from you. Thank you!

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