Joe Sugarman's Triggers - Airplane Tail Collecting Made Easy

Submitted by Dmitri Davydov on Tue, 2007-11-27 11:53.
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In direct marketing, there are products classified as collectibles. Stamps, plates, dolls, and coins are but a few that have been offered by direct marketers in the past, and it is a very healthy and robust market niche. It’s pretty easy to understand that an emotional urge exists to collect many of these items. But what you might be surprised to learn is that collecting is also true in practically every business.

Take my experience with a mail order watch buyer. An enthusiastic watch buyer is your perfect prospect for another watch. When I was selling watches in my catalog, I would periodically send mailings to customers who had previously ordered other products from me. I also mailed to my customers who had ordered watches.

My best list for watches consisted of my existing watch owners. Now you might think, if you had a watch, what would you need another one for? Wrong. Many people actually collect them. They’ll have several watches, several pairs of sunglasses, several pairs of jeans, a library of videos or compact disks, and even a dozen Hawaiian shirts. The list is endless.

I’m always amazed at the number of dolls collected by QVC viewers. Some of their viewers are older women, long past childhood, yet among QVC’s most avid collectors. And they have dozens of dolls. Small car models are also sold on QVC. They are some of the most popular products for men. And not to be outdone, there must be thousands of viewers who own many BluBlocker sunglasses—some in several different styles.

The point is, when selling (whether in print, on TV, or in a personal selling situation),
recognize that there is a very large segment of the population who, for whatever reason, has an emotional need to collect a series of similar products. These products bring great joy and satisfaction and in some cases utility.

Think about those who collect real cars. Many who can afford them have collections that range up to hundreds of full-sized automobiles. What kind of emotional need are they fulfilling?

One of the ways the direct marketers optimize sales via the collecting instinct is by first sending, free of charge with the very first shipment, some sort of device to hold the collection.

I can remember ordering silver airplane tails with various airline logos embossed on them from the Franklin Mint, a successful direct mail company that specialized in collectibles. I started collecting them to see how the Franklin Mint conducted its program rather than from any emotional interest in collecting airplane tails.

Each one of the flat, eighth-inch-thick tails was made of pure silver, giving it value. The tails consisted of the vertical tail element, the part where the airline logo and symbol are located.

And each of the logos was engraved into the silver tail. They were only a few inches wide, weighed about an ounce, and by virtue of just their silver content, they were obviously valuable.

I received a beautiful four-drawer hand-crafted walnut chest with cutouts for each of the silver tails. The chest was so expensive-looking that I felt a subconscious sense of guilt. I had to do something in return to show my appreciation to the Franklin Mint for sending it to me. Something like filling it up with airplane tails.

Now I realize that you might think I’m exaggerating but in truth, these were some of the emotions I felt when I received the chest. Then another emotion came over me. The chest had all these cutouts in which you placed the tails. I had this overwhelming anticipation of wanting to fill up each of the cutouts. Kinda like when I was a little kid and put round pegs in round holes. We’re talking some very basic early childhood stuff here.

And those tails indeed came once a month. I remember the thrill of seeing the Franklin Mint’s envelope arrive each month and my anticipation in opening the envelope to discover what airline’s tail I had received. After opening the envelope and placing the tail in my hand-crafted walnut chest, I saw I was getting closer to filling up the slots. First filling up the first drawer. Then I started the second drawer. I looked at my collection each time I put in a new tail and felt the pride of knowing that my tail collection was growing. That indeed I was accomplishing something that was not that hard to do, something I didn’t have to really work hard to accomplish, but showed that I had real consistency in my life, like that scientific and psychological stuff I talked about in Chapter 1.

Finally, I had enough tails in my chest that when guests visited in my home, I could show them my collection which was now in a prominent position in my living room. I had achieved a level of self-actualization, of self-esteem, and of accomplishment that I had not felt before.

I finally sobered up and stopped collecting. It was costing me a fortune and after all, the only reason I started was for the research—to personally feel the emotional reasons why people get sucked into these schemes. And the collection was kind of silly to start with. The airlines were either merging, going out of business, or changing their names so fast that even the Franklin Mint couldn’t keep up.

But this experience convinced me that there were lots of opportunities in the sales process for selling products to people who would not normally be considered collectors. I found that there were even people who collected gadgets or everything I offered, for that matter. To these people it was like I was their drug supplier. They couldn’t get enough of my products.

Just because you have sold a customer a product, don’t ignore the opportunity to sell him the same product again or a new variation of that product. Just as I found out that my best watch customers were the ones who already owned watches, you might find that your best prospects are the ones who are already your customers and own an almost identical product. They often represent a powerful and overlooked market.

A printer might like to collect printing presses; a gardener might like to collect garden tools; an architect might like to collect unusual drafting tools. You name the category and there will probably be some large percentage of prospects in that group who have the motivation to collect whatever you are offering. This is often associated with consistency, as I outlined in Chapter 1. Once you have set a buying pattern, it is easy and comforting to be consistent in your future buying activity.

The desire to collect extends beyond the obvious collectible products. If you’ve sold your customer a product, consider the fact that the customer might also like to collect similar products. I wonder if there is a market for old airplane tails?
Trigger 18: Desire to Collect

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