Marketing: A Dirty Word? Part Deux

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This post is an example of what you get when you have a zillion and four ideas to tie together, which you can no way do within your self-imposed word count constraint, yet fail to leave yourself a clear enough outline to follow later. 

An old boss had a pretty enlightened view of marketing, that how you did everything you did was part of who you were and part of what people would think of you, and that was the important thing.  There should be no disparity between what goes on in front of and behind the curtain (the reception area should probably be a bit cleaner than the manucturing floor, but if you're running a good operation your manufacturing floor should represent how you do things, so there should be plenty of order there as well).  I HATE HATE HATE being watched while I work, and some of my wheel destressing techniques might freak people out, but if there was a hidden camera on me while I build wheels, I'd be happy to have how I do that work represent us. 

The sort of dirty part of marketing is promotion, which is what most people think of when they think of when they think of marketing.  Our approach to promotion has been different than what's considered normal.  Here are a couple of bullet points about it:

- Advertising: We didn't have the money for it when we started, and when your message is that you are going to cut out a lot of the costs that traditional companies wind up charging you for, spending a bunch of money on advertising seems kind of stupid.  Our word of mouth approach has developed slowly, but strongly and sustainably - kind of like your fitness after a winter of good training.  As we move forward, it's possible that we'll go beyond the very small forays we've made into advertising, but I can't ever see us moving too far in that direction.  Good products and happy customers will always tell our story best. 

- Sponsorship: We could have gone pretty deep into this one right away, but chose not to.  First off is that for every dollar you spend giving something to one person, that's a dollar you have to charge someone else to come out even.  We'd rather give everyone the best deal that we can.  The other huge issue is what are you getting with sponsorship?  If I give you a set of wheels, the expectation is that you'll tell only good things to the market, and give us knowledgeable and reasoned input on the strengths and weaknesses as you find them.  The first compromises the value of your endorsement, the second never happens.  The premise of "we give free stuff to some guy -> his masterful use of it and awesome reputation and influence convinces many others to purchase" is functionally false.  We have our own team, and we think it's a nice team and we're able to offer some nice support in various ways, but they don't get a discount on our stuff.  We'd have to vet the living hell out of anyone who we'd have representing our stuff, and that turns into a lot of time and work and expense and we don't think it works anyway so we don't do it. 

The funny thing is that we're starting to be sincerely flattered, by which I mean imitated.  The message that we've been sending seems to resonate with a lot of people.  Maybe I'm giving us way too much credit (I know that there are cases where I'm not) but it seems that our perspective and message is no longer the lone voice howling in the woods that it once was.  On one hand it feels validating and a bit exciting, on the other hand it feels a bit like "hey we cut this path, who said you could use it?"  But one thing it will do is keep us on our toes. 

Next time I'll make a better outline. 


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  • Joe Bond on

    For what it's worth, your retail price for a Wheelhouse frameset is about the same in constant dollars as the price I could have received as a "Pro deal" for a '99 Trek OCLV frameset when I was a manager at a Bikes USA store prior to their implosion.

  • Scott on

    Keep it up guys!! Honesty and Integrity will always rule the day!! Just a little more $$ and I'll order my FSW23's…

  • Dave on

    I was literally thinking more of "some guy," rather than a top level pro deal (and only the very very top pro team endorsements markedly move the needle). For the kind of deals that launched a million Treks and are currently launching a million Specializeds, that's not a "give some dude some stuff" deal, that's a "pay a metric fortune for the honor of then giving them a LOT of stuff." ProTour level sponsorships add, according to creditable sources I've heard it from, between $150 and $400 to the retail price of a bike, depending on how you move the numbers around.

  • Joe Ajello on

    "The premise of 'we give free stuff to some guy -> his masterful use of it and awesome reputation and influence convinces many others to purchase' is functionally false."Then how do you explain all of those Trek Bikes on the road in the early-mid 2000s? Now it seems as though every third and fourth bike I see on the road is either a Specialized or a Cervelo.

  • Dave on

    Scott – ThanksJoe – After all, we do claim to be "a pro deal for everyone." Thanks.


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