Selling Preventative Maintenance? Good Luck.
By Tad Hargrave
Wednesday, 17th November 2010
Another no holds barred article from Richard Harshaw of MYM Marketing -

If you have lofty dreams of helping people to handle their problems before they become big – you might want to read this.

If you're an holistic practitioner wanting to get people to come in to improve their already great health. you might want to read this first.

Last summer on our annual "pack six kids into the van and test our sanity as we drive 3,500 miles" trip, we decided to ditch the interstate and take some scenic back roads through Colorado. We had a pleasant drive through the mountains along some rivers and other nature-looking stuff, then headed west on Highway 82 up toward Independence pass on our way to Aspen. We were surprised to see deep snow on the ground at the pass—my native Texan kids rarely see any snow at any time back home—let alone in July. So we stopped for a quick snowball fight.

Funny thing about living in flat-as-a-pancake Texas, you never really have to drive in the mountains much. So as we descended from the pass toward Aspen, I had no idea I was making a serious driving error—I was using my brakes to slow down our 29,000 pound 15-passenger monstrosity of a van instead of downshifting. Who knew?

About 20 minutes into the descent, the van started to shimmy every time I applied the brakes. Being a clueless nut, I figured it must have been a flat tire. I pulled over, hopped out, and circled the van to inspect each Goodyear individually. About halfway around, I noticed a bad smell coming from the van—sort of a burning, overheating, smoldering smell. It finally dawned on me that my tires were fine but my brakes were three seconds short of bursting into flames.

I got back in the car and explained to my wife what the situation was. Naturally, she was alarmed, and in addition to downshifting to slow the vehicle from that point forward, we agreed that we'd stop in Aspen and have a mechanic inspect the brakes and tell us how bad the brake damage was. I put $5 on the mechanic not being able to suppress his laughter as I explained how being an idiot redneck from Texas caused all of this.

20 minutes later we finally reached the valley and the quaint little village of Aspen. The city planners must be trying to avoid conducting any kind of commerce in the city—at least that's what I deduced after the main road shot straight through town without passing so much as a Dairy Queen. Apparently they thought it would make their quaint town quainter if a highway wasn't busting through the shopping district. Long story short—Aspen came and went without any sign of any place to get the bad brakes checked out.

But you know what? Turns out, it didn't matter. Because by the time we arrived in Aspen, the cool mountain air had evidently cooled off my brakes. The bad smell was gone, the shimmy was gone, and the brakes seemed to be working fine again.

Good enough for me.

Did I stop in the next available town to find a mechanic? Of course not! I made a decision to use the "cross my fingers and assume that since nothing seems to be a major problem right now that there probably isn't a major problem at all" method. This worked for another two or three thousand miles until we finished the trip.

Trust me, there is a marketing point to be made here—and it has to do with peoples' unwillingness to spend money, time, or brain power to fix things that don't seem to be broken. All of you out there trying to sell preventative maintenance for air conditioning units or automobiles or roofs should receive a gold medal if you succeed. I'm not saying you CAN'T succeed; I'm just saying it's hard to convince people to fix stuff that's not broken yet.

It's practically anti-human behavior.

Here's what early advertising pioneer Claude Hopkins had to say about this subject when faced with the onerous task of marketing toothpaste:

The natural idea in respect to a tooth paste is to make it a preventive. But my long experience had taught me that preventive measures were not popular. People will do anything to cure a trouble, but little to prevent it. Countless advertising ideas have been wrecked by not understanding that phase of human nature. Prevention offers slight appeal to humanity in general.

Then I was urged to present the results of neglect, the negative side of the subject. But I had learned that repulsive ideas seldom won readers or converts. People do not want to read of the penalties. They want to be told of rewards. "Laugh and the world laughs with you, weep and you weep alone." People want to be told the ways to happiness and cheer.

This point is important. Every advertising campaign depends on its psychology. Success or failure is determined by the right or wrong appeal. Scores have tried to scare people into using a certain tooth paste. Not one has succeeded, so far as I know, save where they appealed to troubles already created. Folks give little thought to warding off disasters. Their main ambition is to attain more success, more happiness, more beauty, more cheer.

I recognized that fundamental. I never referred to disasters. I never pictured the afflicted. Every illustration I ever used showed attractive people and beautiful teeth.

See, I told you it's anti-human behavior. If a guy won't even stop for 15 minutes to get his brakes checked even when they have clearly had a problem—a very recent problem—what makes you think somebody's going to pay $99 to have you come check out their air conditioning unit? Or replace their belts and hoses? Or anything else?

Now you've been warned. Look out for a 15-passenger van coming your way careening out of control!

Tad Hargrave is a hippy who developed a knack for marketing.

Despite years in the non-profit and activist world, he finally had to admit he was a marketing nerd and, in the end, he became a marketing coach for hippies. Maybe it was because he couldn't stand seeing his hippy friends struggle to promote their amazing, green and holistic projects. Maybe it was because he couldn't keep a 9-5 job to save his life.

Whatever the reason, for almost a decade, he has been touring his marketing workshops around Canada, bringing refreshing and unorthodox ideas to conscious entrepreneurs and green businesses that help them grow their organizations and businesses (without selling their souls). And, over the years, he has become recognized as a leader in the wider movement towards green and local economies.

He's also considered a pioneer and leading thinker in the field of ‘Hub Marketing‘ (and is working on a book about it'.

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