By Rich Lindblom

When asked what made him such a great hitter, Baseball Hall of Famer Wee Willie Keeler was quoted as saying that he kept his eye on the ball and “Hit ‘em where they ain’t.”

I think most BrandSource members could probably learn not one, but two lessons from old Wee Willie when it comes to running their businesses.

The first lesson is about advertising, the Wee Willie way: “Advertise where they ain’t.” Point being, if there is a media void where no one is advertising, you need to jump in and fill that vacuum.  Think about it; if you are the only company advertising in a particular space, you pretty much have a captive audience.

Here’s an example:  When the blue and orange home improvement stores ended their weekly tabloid inserts, I decided to step up my four-page tabloid advertising.  Why?  Because there was a vacuum and I wanted to fill it.  I knew that every week I was the only person advertising appliances that way in my market.

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The second lesson concerns which products to carry. Again, as seen through the Willie Keeler lens, the message is “Sell what they ain’t.” 

Case in point: A dealer friend from the South was thinking about adding some products to his store’s mix and I suggested adding high-end grills, since pretty much everyone in his market grills year ’round. They are, for all intents and purposes, an appliance, and they deliver good margins. But his answer caught me off guard and was pretty insightful as I think back on it.

 “Why would I want to sell grills?” he said. “Everyone sells them.” 

Instead, he was considering bringing in gun safes. Pretty much everyone in his market has a gun, he reasoned, and most have more than one. But they have no idea where to find a proper safe in which to store them, let alone have it delivered and installed. Sure, plenty of retailers sell traditional safes, but due to their weight, most are not equipped to transport them. But appliance dealers, with their lift-gated trucks, appliance dollies and refrigerator-tested delivery crews, most certainly are. 

Wow! Talk about thinking outside the box. Or, more precisely, selling what they ain’t. It was a perfect example of what I’m talking about. Find a vacuum, a void, a niche, whatever you want to call it, within your market and fill it.  Find products that aren’t found on every street corner, products that your delivery crew(s) are capable of delivering, and that also deliver high margins. You will drive more customers to your store, grow your sales revenues and increase your margins all at the same time.

The bottom line is that it is possible for your company to grow your revenues and your profits at the same time without straying too far from your comfort zone.  But the key is finding, and filling, that void.

I have three goals in mind with my columns: To motivate, educate and entertain.  If I have achieved at least one of those, then I’ve done my job. Don’t be shy about letting me know if you agree or disagree for that matter. Write me at egvrich@gmail.com.