I’m driving into work this morning, listening to my podcast and I pull up behind a tractor-trailer delivery truck (I couldn’t get my iPhone camera going fast enough, otherwise, I’d have a photo). It had blue wavy graphics and an oval logo on it that says “Coburns Wholesale Distributors” It wasn’t a bad looking trailer; in fact, it was clean and the graphics were decent. In other words, I’ve seen worse.
Underneath the logo was their tagline: “The Name with the Flame.” I honestly had to think for a minute. Since I’m in my late 40′s, things don’t make sense to me as quickly as they once did. Then I realized that it was referring to the “burn” in the name. (Please tell me you struggled with that too. It would really make me feel better.)
The Burning Question
Of course, the first question in my mind was, “What do these guys do?” Obviously, they distribute stuff. But what stuff? Their logo is a flame, but they’ve already beat me over the head with that joke (Alright! Alright! I get it … please stop!). Then I saw another line of copy that said: “Serving the contractor community since 1934.” What kind of contractor? Serving them how? With what? C’mon, guys, don’t hold back, I’m getting anxious here.
Why would a company waste such an obvious opportunity like the side of their delivery truck and not clearly communicate what they do? Probably because they don’t know.
So, I Googled them. According to their website, the company is a wholesale distributor of plumbing, heating and air conditioning and mechanical supplies for general contractors, home builders as well as municipal and utility. They are also proud to add that they “… serve the needs of city and state offices, and institutions.”
I never would have guessed. Especially the last part.
Where do they get this stuff?
So why did they decide on “Name with The Flame?” I’m sure over several beers back in 1934 (when they began serving
contractors and it was okay to drink on the job) they chose catchy over smart. But you can’t knock a company too badly if it’s been around since 1934. They’re obviously doing a lot of things right and they must have a respectable level of customer loyalty. So why not talk about THAT? Do they deliver quickly? Do they have a high level of expertise? Do they deal in high-end premium products or more value-driven?
You got my attention. But is it the right attention?
Every company has a story to tell. And at first, when you’re a start-up with just you, the founder, and a truckload of wholesale supplies, that’s fine. You gotta start somewhere. But over time, you start to realize that your competitors catch up to you. They deliver the same stuff you do. That’s when a lot of companies start reverting to price. “We can do it cheaper.” is a easy fall back position. But not particularly profitable.
You have to talk to people about what you deliver emotionally. Practically, all of your competitors do what you do. But they can’t provide the “X” factor. That one thing that keeps clients coming back time and time again and making sure it’s communicated across your organization.