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As part of a Radio Advertising Advantage “Radio 911” telephone consultation, a radio station sales manager asked if I had any ideas for a relatively new client: a small, independently owned hardware store. Just one location, in the center of a small town.

The store didn’t seem to have any obvious Unique Selling Proposition (lowest prices, free delivery, etc.).

So I thought about my own rare ventures into hardware stores and quickly realized a key emotion that I suspect is felt by many customers:


Not heart palpitating, sweat producing, shortness of breath inducing fear.

More like uneasiness, a pronounced uncomfortableness.

Will I be able to find the tool or accessory I need?

How will I know which item to buy?

How will I know how many or what size I’ll need?

If I can’t find what I need, will a store employee be able to help me? Will they laugh at my ignorance?

This immediately led me to suggest a very powerful strategy utilized by too few advertisers: Education.

I suggested a series of commercials in which the store owner answers the most common questions posed by do-it-yourselfers in a relaxed, conversational, non-threatening manner:

Hi, I’m Ed Proprietor of Ed’s Hardware Store. A wrench is a pretty simple tool.

But if you ask someone to hand you a wrench, they might say, “Which wrench do you want? Pipe wrench? Monkey wrench? Crescent? Open-ended? Box wrench?”

Here’s a quick & easy explanation of the differences. (EXPLANATION GOES HERE.)

We carry so many different kinds of wrenches … and hammers, and saws, and screws & nails all kinds of thingamajigs and whatchamacallems…because we want to make sure we have exactly what you need.

Having helped thousands of (LOCAL) handymen & women, carpenters, electricians, and part-time fixer-uppers over the past 45 years, you can pretty much count on our having what you’re looking for.

And if you’re not sure what it’s called, don’t worry; we’ll know.

I’m Ed Proprietor of Ed’s Hardware Store in Smalltown, on Main Street, right across from the Post Office. Stop by today; we’re here to help.”

Where would you rather shop:

At a hardware store where the clerks don’t know and don’t care?

Or at a hardware store where the clerks are eager to answer your questions without making your feel stupid?

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  • Neal Angell November 27, 2012, 8:06 am

    I’m not a handy person. I’ve felt that unease and have had those same questions run through my head. And if I heard a series of educational commercials as you describe, that particular hardware store would have me as a loyal customer.

    On a personal note, my advice is to always look for the old guy. I mean the old, old guy…the guy with the white hair and gnarled hands, who looks like he should’ve retired ten years ago. It may take him an extra minute to shuffle over to the section of items you have questions about, but it’s worth the wait, as you’ll receive a level of knowledge and customer service rarely seen these days.