We knew we had a problem in the bathroom more than three years ago when my son’s tennis team stopped by our house before going to their match. We had dinner and, well, people needed to use the bathroom.
In our little hallway bathroom our toilet flushed with a vengeance. But in our larger bathroom the water just gurgled, swirled and didn’t go anywhere.
The toilet is not a typical household item that is featured in marketing articles because you usually call the plumber, they do their job and it works fine. Ours never flushed like it should so we got in the habit of keeping a bucket of water nearby to assist in its job.
After we had our entire house re-piped and new drains installed we expected that would solve the problem, but it didn’t. We called the plumbing company and they sent along a man who didn’t charge us, fortunately.
I explained the issue. He quickly snaked the toilet but there was no resistance so that meant the line was clear.
He was determined to make it flush just like the one in our hallway bathroom. He figured there was calcium build-up in the outlets so he showed me how to clean them and the toilet worked fine. I remember his words precisely, “There, it’s flushing like a champ.”
So the toilet worked for about five more months, until it didn’t flush and I had to empty the water and scrub out the jets to get it working again. The plumbers couldn’t answer why the hallway toilet worked so much more effectively.
This went on for over a year. We knew we had a low flush tank, but the other one was also considered low flush, yet it was as powerful as a fire hose. Tossing buckets of water down the toilet after every other use was getting old.
We had a problem and we didn’t know how to solve it. And then my wife bought a toilet with strong, positive reviews.
The new toilet we purchased had great testimonials online. We paid around $150, gave a friend $60 to install it since I was busy and when we flushed it for the first time, we were terribly disappointed.
I looked in the tank. It had a sophisticated looking reservoir, far more high-tech looking than I had ever seen. But on the first flush, our hearts sank because the water barely swirled down the drain.
Now we were out $210. Our problem had gotten worse because, despite our online research, we bought a brand new toilet that didn’t work any better than the one we got rid of. Talk about frustration.
The online testimonials for us ended up being … crap.
We don’t give up easily. So we called another plumber to check things out and wondered if we had a problem down the line. Since our home has several people living in it, we thought that could be the case.
He sent an associate who arrived and gave me a thorough education on toilets for the cost of a basic service call. Only $100.
He agreed to use his augur for the price and see if that would help, but before he did he told me the tank in our new toilet only held 0.8 gallons of water. And that was the problem.
The toilet in the hallway bathroom that worked so well had a 1.28 gallon tank. And, he pointed out, it had a three-inch flapper that lifted straight up in the center of the tank. It flushed with intense pressure.
Older low-flush toilets, he mentioned, once had a 1.6 gallon tank, but in today’s models the design of the flapper played a key role.
He checked beneath the floorboards to make sure the pipes and drains looked good and he said they did.
So, now, we were out $310 for a toilet that didn’t work.
Rather than get upset, off we went to the big box retail store.
The marketing message
My experience is proof positive that the right message, reaching the right audience, at the right time has great impact. It certainly did with me and my wife.
Go to Home Depot or Lowes and you’ll see shelves packed to the brim with similar items but different brands. The toilet aisle is no exception.
We didn’t have a brand in mind, but we knew a few big brand names. We knew what we were looking for — a toilet with a 1.28 gallon tank and, if we could find it, one with a three-inch flapper.
We scanned the first several boxes but made our way down the aisle and then a picture jumped out at my wife. She laughed. “Look at this.”
On the box was an image of golf balls in the toilet bowl with the copy:
Engineered to Prevent Clogs (this was printed in yellow),
Flushes a Bucket of Golf Balls in a Single Flush (this was printed below in white).
To the right of the copy was an image with golf balls stuffed into the toilet bowl.
The outrageous promise caught our attention. The model cost $199.
There were other toilets with similar sized tanks in the $159 to $189 price range.
I was sold immediately.
If this toilet was indeed engineered to flush golf balls then I wanted it now!
We bought it, took it home, installed it and — I was so happy with the results that after four years of bathroom agony I felt like taking a selfie and posting online.
I actually haven’t tried to flush golf balls down it, but I understand why it works so well and now I’m a big fan.
The marketing lessons
Here are two takeaways to apply whether you market a product or service.
Try an outrageous promise
An outrageous message meant a lot to us. It made us laugh but because we had dealt with a problem for so long, we took the copy seriously.
The text plus image made the product stand out from the competition. We stopped looking immediately.
Try an “outrageous” message — one that’s clear and resonates with your target customer. Touch on the customer’s pain point with a clearly stated benefit.
We knew the features we wanted such as 1.28 gallon tank, but it was the benefit that moved us to purchase.
An outrageous promise can be professional.
I write content for businesses and a lot of my work comes through a few marketing consultants who don’t like to write. In fact, they really can’t stand writing so they need someone who will create content on deadline and on message.
My outrageous promise to them could be a before and after pic — a person in a cold sweat and then looking peaceful after assigning copy for me to write.
The benefit is marketing consultants who are worried about writing copy can rest easy after hiring me.
I’d back up my promise with samples of my work, plus testimonials.
Focus on a narrow audience
Don’t expect the same message to work for everyone. You’re not trying to convince everyone to do business with you.
I didn’t mention the toilet’s brand name in this article because I didn’t want to influence readers. It’s a well-known brand but there are other brands that are well known, too.
The golf ball image that worked for me won’t move everyone to buy. Customers will purchase other brands based on loyalty, recommendations from friends, a sophisticated look or other personal preferences.
Identify your customers who have the greatest needs and if you serve them well then you’ll get referrals to more customers.
Focus on a narrow audience to build a customer base.
I don’t need to attract every marketing consultant, but mostly those who truly hate to write or admit they can’t write. By making them and their clients happy, I should be able to build a solid customer base.
Know your priorities
Remember, you can make funny, outrageous promises that get attention but if the product or service is sub-par then the best marketing message in the world ultimately won’t help.
Offer a great product or provide great service. That’s what will build your reputation in the long run.
Marketing that speaks to a customer’s need or desire right away is meant to connect them to what you offer.
The reward hits home when the customer notices, buys what you offer and then becomes a fan. That’s what you’re in business to do — make people happy by solving their problems or meeting their desires. And they’ll gladly pay you time and again.