Why Wouldn't You
Want to Use the Best?
Do you need good tools? Over the years I have used a wide variety
of tools and I have come to conclude that quality tools make a difference.
My wife might say that the only differences among tools are cost
and the fools who buy them - but there is more.
The inspiration for this month's article came from two catalogs,
The GarreetWade Tool Catalog and Griot's Garage. Both of these catalogs
seem to be marketing to rich tool freaks (the 10-hp compressor crowd
with eight pneumatic nail guns and nothing to build - ever! But
they love the feel or kick of the nail gun as they shoot nails across
the garage). The key phrase here is "love the feel." This
is important because I believe that tool selection is - or should
be - based on the right perceptions. Buying cheap doesn't pay. Getting
the tool that helps you do your best work and reinforces your feelings
of being a craftsperson is the better decision.
Once again, the price demon appears. Last month, I tried to explode
the myth that value resides in cost alone. There is a point where
your ability to save money affects others adversely. While I did
mention the effects cheapness can have on you and your employees,
I believe that we should explore the effects of value and your own
performance. Too many shops try to save money by purchasing items
of questionable origin. We all want to save money, but think about
Do your customers come to you because you offer the best work and
service or because you are the cheapest?
I hope that your goal is to be the best you can and to provide
the best value.
EXPENSIVE CHEAP TOOLS
How do cheapness and tools relate?
As I was reading through the two tool catalogs, I realized that
they were selling very good products at decent margins. They were
offering good value. You can question the wisdom of all the glamour
photography, but you can see the quality of the product. Both companies
imply that while there are many inexpensive products to be had,
why wouldn't you want to use the best? The answer is quite simple.
Using the best tool helps you do your best work because the tool
forces you to push your performance envelope. In a nutshell:
You do better work with good tools. That is a powerful concept.
Further, good tools seem to last longer than cheap tools - especially
the tools that can be maintained rather than be tossed when they
fail. Value now seems to relate to better work and lower cost through
Why, then, do so many distributors and manufacturers continually
look for the least expensive level of adequate performance, rather
than looking for products that help users get the desired results
with more forgiveness, better appearance, and greater ease of use?
The most common reply from these distributors and manufacturers
is that "this is what you buy!"
Think about that one. They sell what you buy. That means that the
reason products are declining in quality is because that is what
you demand. Whew! I'm glad we've resolved that issue.
The detailer might say, "this junk is what you offer us! Besides,
everybody sells the same stuff without any real differentiation
between one product and the next - they're all copies of the category
The tool catalogs might offer an antidote. Griot's offers the usual
chemicals in attractive packages, but what sets them apart is the
variety of tools available to help detailing. You won't find LED
exhaust pipe afterburner extensions here. These are the products
that help make a car look its best. As you look through the catalog,
you'll find products that you don't see very often.
Where have these products been? Some are new and some have been
around for years. My point is that you are often denied, or fail
to find, products because people have been blinded by cheapness.
As everybody pares down costs, options are eliminated. You are deprived
of choice and must settle.
Do you have to settle for less? No.
CHOOSE THE BEST
I am not advocating buying gold-plated tools and products. I am
advocating that the industry reconsider its headlong drive toward
cheapness. You want to profit from your performance - why not let
others profit from their own best performances?
There should be more respect for the professionalism of all practitioners
and vendors within the trade. You may discover that the difference
in quality and performance over the lifetime of the product will
more than compensate for the higher price of the product.
Pick up a copy of Griot's and other catalogs like Sporty's and
look at the products. Talk to your suppliers. Ask them to help you
find superior performance. Write to and talk with manufacturers
about how their products can help you.
HATS OFF TO GRIOT'S
While I do think that some of the products in Griot's catalog are
expensive from a shop point of view, I believe that you can find
products from other distribution sources that work to serve the
needs of businesses rather than consumers. However, I also believe
that Griot's can be a good source of innovative ideas because their
efforts are focused on results.
This focus on results is reflected on page 5 of their current catalog.
They offer what they call a "Young Entrepreneur's Car Care
Kit" for $159. Here's how they describe the offering:
"For years I've thought about creating a car care kit for
young entrepreneurs. Something a young person who has a passion
for cars could take and turn into a means to start their own business
and make some money. My father taught me the value of having a tactile
skill that I could always fall back on and the freedom and pride
in owning my own business. Great advice for any child. With summer
coming, this is the ideal time for any young, eager person to get
started. I've combined some basic items to get them started. As
an extra bonus, I'm including our exclusive Detailer's Handbook
so your child can read and learn everything they need to know about
proper car care."
DEATH OF A PRODUCT CATEGORY
The urge to compete on price, or the drive to be the cheapest in
the market, can have unintended and disastrous consequences. Suppose
there is a major durable consumer product offered throughout the
country at an average price of around $180. There are four major
manufacturers competing for about a billion dollars in sales. The
fourth-largest manufacturer realizes that it is not going to displace
the top three, so it decides to innovate and change the market.
It eliminates a high-profit-margin consumable item that must be
used with the product. Some might argue that the earnings on this
item kept the product makers in business. It is a desperate ploy,
but it works for the fourth-largest manufacturer. Sales take off.
Soon, the other three manufacturers offer similar units.
The fourth-largest manufacturer does well until it launches a new
line of products in mid year. The distribution chain is filled with
the obsolete models. The result is that there soon are three manufacturers
in this product category. The first moral is do not screw distribution!
The top two remaining manufacturers thrive, leaving the third farther
behind. The third manufacturer decides to move some manufacturing
operations overseas and cuts its gross profit per unit from around
$60 to $20. This profit reduction permits retailers to lower the
cost of the company's products. Suddenly, this is the least expensive
product line and sales increase. The other manufacturers respond
- they also cut profit margins and send manufacturing overseas where
they, too, can employ labor under sweatshop conditions. Profits
slide for everybody and thousands of workers lose their jobs. Rather
than competing on quality or performance, they chose price. Now
all the manufacturers are in trouble:
1. Profits are down on initial sales
2. Consumable products sales are down
3. Moving jobs offshore creates poor PR
4. Sales decline due to the economy
The number two manufacturer's fate now seems uncertain. Why can
presumably intelligent people act so stupidly? How can educated
people be so blind to the consequences of their actions? Just how
dumb can you be?
Think about it. Might you have done anything like this yourself?
Have you bid ridiculously low for wholesale business that cost you
money and forced you to forego profitable retail trade? Have you
competed with a business across town without knowing whether or
not you share customers?
WHAT YOU LOSE
When you chase the lowest cost, you lose the "extras."
You miss the creativity and the ability to innovate. You should
- and ultimately must - avoid the cutthroat blood sport of price
cutting and focus on the products and services that help you perform
better to satisfy your customer. After all, having customers willing
to pay for the services you offer is what it's all about.
John Lamade has extensive experience in the marketing of detailing
products and is a contributing editor to Auto Laundry News. Contact
John via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.