Recently, and strictly for research purposes mind you, I googled the word “sex.” My search returned 3,900,000,000 results. Next, I searched the word “quality” and got 5,800,000,000 hits. Based on these results one might make a case that we have a greater interest in quality than sex. While I believe this would be a seriously flawed hypothesis, it’s well established that quality is an important consideration in the buying decisions we make. That's why every year businesses spend billions playing the “Q-Card.”
A generation ago Ford Motor spent huge advertising dollars reminding us: At Ford, Quality is Job 1. Today, Mercedes-Benz positions its automobile as Engineered Like No Other Car in the World while BMW touts its vehicle as The Ultimate Driving Machine. And I love the Apple campaign that paired a good-looking, way-cool guy named Mac with a nerdy schlub called P.C. Apple's message was unmistakable: If you want a cooler, hipper product that delivers a better quality computing experience, buy a Mac. Currently, Allstate has wisely chosen not to join the chorus of insurance companies chanting the “save you money” mantra and is instead using its award-winning “mayhem” campaign to successfully brand itself as the quality choice among home and auto insurers.
Of course, all of the above companies are multi-billion dollar corporations with massive advertising budgets. They can effectively play the “Q-Card” through sheer force of repetition. But what if you own or work for a business with more limited resources? How does your business play the “Q-Card” for winning marketing results? In this article I present you with ONE KEY IDEA and several tips and examples to help you do just that.
Let’s start by looking at an example of how not to play your “Q-Card.” It’s from a company called The Ding King. I found this copy on their web site:
Our Commitment to Quality
- Quality Training
- Quality Tools
- Quality Lighting Systems that enable you to see the “entire dent”
- Quality Staff to Support You
- Quality Training Facilities
- Quality Instructors to Educate You
- Quality PERIOD!!!
That is exactly what The Ding King Training Institute will provide you with – Quality!
OK, pop quiz time. What did you learn about The Ding King’s commitment to quality? If you answered “nothing” give yourself an “A+” and a gold star. Because you astutely observed that although The Ding King uses the word quality 9 times, only once (see the “entire dent”) does it even hint at what it means by quality. It’s as if the company believes that repetition alone is enough to get its point across.
But “quality,” in and of itself, means little. For example, looking in my Oxford American Dictionary I see that the first definition listed for quality reads, “a degree or level of excellence.” What degree? What level? It’s up to the writer to provide that.
Which brings us to today’s ONE KEY IDEA:
In order to play a winning “Q-Card” you must include relevant and specific details about your product or service to support your express or implied claim of quality. (Hey, I didn’t say it would be a new idea.)
I’ve reworked two of The Ding King’s bullet points with today’s key idea in mind:
- Quality Tools - All Ding King tools are manufactured in the U.S. by ISO-9001 certified manufacturers and backed by a five-year money-back performance guarantee.
- Quality Instructors to Educate You - Ding King instructors average 12 years of industry experience and 40% of them have worked in the industry for 20 or more years.
As far as I know the details I’ve added are pure fiction. But the details are not the point. The point is to use the strongest, most relevant facts, data and details you have at your disposal. Relevant facts, data and details are the nuts and bolts that give credence and believability to your claim of quality. These nuts and bolts will make your “Q-Card” copy meaningful, memorable, persuasive.
Still, to quote Herschell Gordon Lewis, legendary copywriter and author of more than 30 books on marketing and advertising, “The easiest thing for any of us to do is criticize someone else’s work.” So then, let me balance my Ding King criticism with a praiseworthy “Q-Card” example.
It takes well-trained, quality people to build a quality home
Palm Harbor Homes explains on its website that it owes its “exceptional results” to its focus on quality and the ability of its “exceptional associates.” More importantly, Palm Harbor provides a number of details about its employee training program. This training, explains the Palm Harbor website, ensures that its associates “have the knowledge needed to constantly improve the quality we build into our homes.” (I like that phrasing. It’s warm, active, visual.)
Among other details, visitors to Palm Harbor’s website learn that –
- “Each new associate receives at least 16 hours of classroom training in our Quality Improvement Process.” (Note that it’s not simply training but “classroom training,” phrasing that calls to mind a room full of associates, each with a legal pad, pen in hand, instructor leading the class.)
- “The lessons learned…are reinforced during weekly meetings as well as monthly team luncheons.” (Specific details about how often and how regular.)
- “Then, because the Quality Improvement Process is a continuing process, all associates receive refresher courses and updated training designed to help them make full use of their abilities.” (And the company makes sure its associates keep current with their training.)
- “As a company, [Palm Harbor’s] commitment to quality and value is even integrated into [its] compensation systems.” Plus, the company compensates its associates not only on their productivity but also “on the level of customer satisfaction they are able to produce.” (Great! Part of their compensation is tied to my satisfaction.)
You see the difference? Unlike The Ding King, Palm Harbor does much more than simply parrot the word quality. It offers specific and relevant details about how it ensures its associates have the training and skills it takes to deliver quality service and build a quality home. (And in case you’re wondering, no, I didn’t write their copy. Wish I had, though.)
Detailing the time and attention you put into properly training your employees is one effective way to play your “Q-Card.” Other factors and areas of operations to consider, include:
- Your company’s production, manufacturing and quality control standards
- Your company’s customer care and customer service practices (Nordstrom has become legendary in this regard)
- Your company’s customer retention rate
- The expertise and experience of key personnel and executives and employee certifications and designations
- The stability of your workforce.
In short, any customer-relevant details that speak to the quality of your people, products and (or) services, or your organization as a whole.
Here are three examples from my own experience:
- A number of years ago I did a project for a printing company. I noticed that whenever I called I was always greeted by a friendly, live voice within the first few rings. I told the marketing director what a nice touch this was and she replied, “Oh yes. We have a policy around here that we answer the phone before the fourth ring and always with a live voice.” I made it a point to mention this in their marketing materials.
(As a self-serving but relevant aside, the preceding anecdote highlights one reason why it can be helpful to work with an outsider in developing marketing materials. A company employee would not likely: (a) Have had that many occasions to call in to the company and (or) (b) Been too accustomed to the timely “live voice” answer to think of it as a selling point.)
- I interviewed a company executive as prep work for a project I did for a homebuilder. In answering one of my quality-related questions he told me that while most builders either nailed or glued the subfloor construction, his company always did both. And he punched up this point by saying, “We spill more glue in construction than most contractors actually use.” The “nail and glue” fact made it into the body copy of the brochure; the “spill” quip served as a caption for one of the photos.
- The “Q-Card” copy below, written for a small contract manufacturer of specialty chemicals, highlights not only the experience and expertise of its chemists but also the breadth of that experience:
“Our staff chemists average more than 25 years of experience. Excellent scientists, they also have substantial experience with the entire production process. From development work to operating a pilot-plant reactor – on any given project they can and often will do it all. As a result, they understand, better than most, the difference between what’s possible in a lab and what’s doable in a manufacturing environment. And that can save you time, money and headaches.”
As I come to the conclusion of this article I can sum up the gist of whatever wisdom there may be in the preceding 1503 words with the following five-word sentence. Be specific when you write. This is always good writing advice to follow, especially when you’re writing marketing copy and even more so when writing your “Q-Card” copy. For while the majority of your customers and prospects most decidedly do not have a greater interest in quality than sex, when it comes to buying decisions quality – dressed up in relevant and meaningful specifics – has a very strong “sex appeal” that will help the marketer advance or close the sale.