Straight Talk: Crafted With the Customer in Mind
Among woodworkers, Hawk tools are in a league of their own. They are the kind of tools woodworking enthusiasts dream of getting and brag about owning. Not bad for a brand that only markets through direct channelsincluding direct mail, live events, Internet and telemarketingand has been without a retail presence since its manufacturer RB Industries struck out on its own in the late '70s after some 50 years of producing tools for the likes of Sears and Montgomery Ward. For President Robb Murry, the company owes much of this tremendous word of mouth and fervent customer loyalty to the strength of its customer service and marketing programs, both of which are crafted by enthusiasts, for enthusiasts.
Murry now pauses to reflect on how evolving technologies and a changing customer base are transforming the way RB Industries does business ... and why he's just fine with that.
TG: What role does mail play in your marketing program?
RM: Direct mail-based [marketing] is about 80 percent of our revenues. We do a lot of direct response space ads in woodworking and hobby magazines. The process is that you see an ad and send in for information, which is a DVD pack that literally demonstrates the tool in your home. Then there's a follow-up from our inside sales group. If the lead doesn't convert, [he] goes into our general direct mail cycle, which includes seven different offers over 12 months. ... The total cycle is about nine attempts before the lead goes dormant.
TG: What effect have new technologies had on your efforts?
RM: It's been really good. The [Web] is a powerful tool for us. [It] is super active and much of it is back-and-forth conversations between us and our customers, answering questions, gathering information. Our average order is substantialit's over $1,000so we can spend a little money on this dialogue, and the average time from when leads inquire to the time [they] convert is compressed because we are able to use our Web site to interact with them much more than when we were strictly direct mail. ...
[Also], we have been using the DVD program for three years now and it's staggering the difference it makes in our ability to convert. Before, most of our sales came from live events, and direct mail took a supporting role to that. [Now] we can deliver that live demonstration at the point when [prospects] are interested in the tool. A live event couldn't do that. ... We have the ability to zero in not only [on] the right people, but at the right time. It has completely changed the dynamic of our business. We were 80 percent field sales and 20 percent direct mail. Now we are 80 percent direct mail.
TG: What are some of the challenges facing RB Industries right now?
RM: One of [our] biggest challenges is that the demographic of our customer is changing, and we are having to learn to communicate to a different audience. Our customers are more senior than they've ever been. So, how do we specifically communicate to them? What are their motivations and the things that are important to them? ... Graphically, it changes the way we do things. We have to be more aware of the visual presentation of our product, who is included and who's not. Our average customer is 59 years old, but [he] doesn't like to see 59-year-old people using the tools. [He] likes to see younger people. [His] motivation for buying a tool is different, and that's been interesting for us, having to really change the direction of our copy and understanding the psychographics of that customerwhat [does he] really want, what's going to be important to [him] and cause [him] to make a buying decision? These are not the nuts-and-bolts customers that I'm used to in the tool business; these are emotional customers.
TG: What are the keys to your direct marketing success?
RM: Understanding what motivates our customer and being able to communicate with [him] at that level with the medium that makes sense to [him]. Our customers actually enjoy getting phone calls, they enjoy speaking with our tool specialists. All the guys that work on that side of our business, they use the tools at home, and they are more like friends calling than sales guys. They aren't heavily scripted. People will come to me and tell me that they are a member of our club because they bought our tools. But we don't have a club. There's just such a feeling of belonging and loyalty, and it's interesting being able to develop that. It's something we can do that a big box retailer can't docreate and manage those relationshipsand that's absolutely the key to our success.