Our very different differentiation strategy

"You'll need 6 to 8 russet potatoes..." Mike wrote the funniest thing I've ever read last night, and in response I promised him that I would begin a blog with it. We'll let you in on the full thing - probably Tuesday since Mike's working on the execution of the thought behind it now, and Monday is Mailbag Monday. But I'm dying laughing thinking about it even now. 

From all that I can discover, YouTube is taking over the world and we have to get onboard. We (or at least I, Mike may be being kind) think the videos we posted last week (part 1 here, part 2 here) are pretty good. The second is better than the first, because learning curve. But after a week their viewership is pretty anemic, certainly not on a curve for the 311k views that some other wheel building videos have gotten. Maybe it's my stunning corona mop, maybe it's my face that's made for radio, maybe it's my voice that's perfect for silent film. Are you starting to see why we prefer blogging?!?

One way to look at it is that the 5 or 6 hours I spent on each of these isn't worth the viewership they've gotten, which is the wrong way to look at it. The right way to look at it is that production value is lame, the shop isn't particularly photogenic, we've done none of the basic tricks to get good viewership, and these are posted to my personal account because we didn't start out with a good YouTube strategy however many years ago and I'm struggling to figure out the brand account thing and we may have to burn it all down and start over. Which we will if we have to, we've done that plenty of times before.

The greater point is that we have to build your trust, because we differentiate much differently than the big brands that shout themselves up with big sponsorships and endless product differentiation. We've always got to be those strange kids...

As Zipp's latest product unveiling reveals, the way of the industry now is to chop things up into ever finer segments and make it all about product. "Our rims do this thing that no others do," "our hubs have this miraculous feature," etc. But then they all wind up in the same place! That place is currently a 25mm inner width, hookless, suitable only for tubeless tires that are approved for use with hookless rims. Make no mistake, product counts, but it's not everything. 

We can't and don't want to paint ourselves into that corner. Though we've bemoaned our inventory conundrum time and time again (and thank you for all the comments), serving you all is a broad product play. We can't just sell to the "gotta have the newest latest greatest and willing to pay through the nose for it" set, although we certainly feel that our product is 100% there (and especially when you factor in hubs, it's sometimes a bit more than that). No one's writing any news stories about the exciting new HED Belgium+/White Industries T11 wheels, but that build never gets out of the top 5 in our sales mix. And our execution of it is a near perfect product, because of a couple of things.

One is that despite where the headlines are, a ton of people still ride rim brake bikes and prefer them and will continue to do so. You have your bikes, you like your bikes, you want awesome wheels to maximize your enjoyment of your bikes. These aren't cheap wheels by any stretch, though you could certainly spend a lot more. So there is a big audience out there that's got a need for this general product, and it's ready to spend this much to have it. 

Another is that the rims sell themselves. Our survey showed that you guys are pretty adamant about rim specs, and the HED Belgium+ obviously has specs that work for a lot of people. Reinforced many many times by us, they also have a reputation for being the best built aluminum rims out there. A customer (who got the I9-based build, not the WI one) called early this week just to say how floored he was by the quality of everything he received, in the absolute and especially relative to other wheels he's had in the past. That impression is common.

The hubs also sell themselves. If there are two things we can justifiably be called "fan boys" of, they are Belgium+ rims and White Industries T11 hubs. We don't need to go through them another time but you can click here to take a self guided tour. 

And then we build them with CX Rays, which are what everyone seems to want, and with good reason. They're quality, they look sexy, they're a bit faster, and they allow us incredible control over the build fine tuning.

But all of those things are product attributes, and don't be fooled you can buy this same build from a ba.jillion places. Our differentiation relies nearly completely on you having confidence in us. In our information and opinions and honesty and skill and responsiveness and everything else in which you should have confidence. Though we sweat like pigs (that's a cliche - do pigs even sweat?) to make sure that our products are up to scratch and the specs you want, that's our life support. Without that - pfft. 

Ten years ago Mike called the way we set this company up "the longest long con in the history of long cons." Every year we've tried to prove that more right. 


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  • Dave in ME on

    I have two sets of wheels from you and in my experience, I have never ridden anything better.

  • Ben Arians on

    I only have Yukon Golds, will that be ok?

  • Mike on

    I actually don’t remember saying that, though it’s certainly true and prescient so I can only assume I must have said it.

  • DaveB on

    This was very informative and true to form; I learned plenty, so thanks! – the 6 to 8 russets sound intriguing!


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