Walnut or Mahogany?

Boy playing piano

You are all probably familiar with the multiple “P”s of marketing” — Product, Packaging, Price and Promotion, to name the ones most often written about — but have you thought much about the “M”s?  By that I mean Markets, Messages and Media.

When I was growing up in my father’s piano and organ store in Southern California I had the privilege of being exposed, very early on, to a great many people who were very good at crafting messages. Some were marketing messages, some were sales messages and some were what are called closing questions — the kind of questions to which there is only one answer, and that answer is “yes.”

We were taught not to ask ” Would you like to buy now?” but to ask things like “Would the walnut or mahogany finish look best in your living room?”  Or “Would delivery on Tuesday or Thursday be most convenient?” Or “Who in the family will be taking the free lessons,  you or your child?” These are sales closing questions but they bring to mind another story with a message.  One about messages.

In my salad days, piano stores tended to locate themselves fairly close to each other. You could often find three of them within visual distance of each other — one on a corner, one in the middle of the street and one across the way. This was as true in Los Angeles as it was in Malmo, Sweden (which was one of the many towns I visited where I was able to confirm this phenomenon). And we were also taught that to get a (typically female with a child) prospect to return to our store with her husband (completing what is called the “total buying unit”) that we had to get the messaging right.

Our pianos had great features. Eighty-eight keys, some black, some white. Three solid brass pedals — none of that plated stuff!  A 5-ply pin block, staples to the 51st hammer, thirteen ribs on the sounding board with the 10-year warranty and a flange on the harp. Are you bored with features yet or shall I explain them further and add a bunch more? I thought not. Turns out that most high quality pianos exhibit these (or similar) features. So how do I get my prospect back in my store?

We conveyed a message of benefits! Our pianos had “singing tone,” a characteristic that would make it resonate with the voice of a child taking piano and voice lessons and make that child sound like an angel. I would demonstrate it to a prospect since it was “of a highly technical nature.” The other pianos in the other stores didn’t have that benefit. Because the salespeople in those stores didn’t know the secret of singing tone.  Nor do you, but if you’d like to I’ll be happy to tell you the whole (very long) story over coffee someday!

Our message was a benefit.  A personal benefit. The only kind that usually works consistently when presented to the proper target market using the most effective media. So in addition to the “P”s give some thought to the “M”s. You’ll be amazed at the results.

As always, your comments pro, con or otherwise are welcomed and I’ll be happy to respond to them.


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