Buying something you don’t actually want is never easy, which is why grudge purchases are the hardest things to advertise and sell. Don’t misunderstand me here – all the stuff that we don’t want, but have to have, will always sell. But when it comes to grudge purchases, no one gives a damn about the brand, the supplier or anything else except the lowest price, the most convenient access, and the best warranty where applicable.

Think about it, we all need petrol, tyres and shock absorbers for the car, or insurance for our health, houses and lives but we don’t really want them. When your tyres get bald and your car fails its WOF, you get new tyres or you walk. But that doesn’t mean you like shelling out eight hundred dollars to keep your car moving. When you need tyres, you probably do exactly what I do – identify the type of tyre you need and then call around to find the best deal. I do the same with insurance and electricity.

If there was a site that gave me the prices of tyres around Auckland, I’d be there in a second.

When I bought travel insurance for my current overseas trip, I looked on Squaremouth. I was presented with exactly what I wanted from a wide range of insurers, most of which I’d never heard of. At this point, brand was the least important thing on my mind – what I wanted was the best deal for the amount of cover I needed, and I wanted peace of mind i.e. good customer reviews, of which there were plenty (this is a great example of where keeping your customers happy pays off in the long run).

So I think it’s safe to say that grudge purchases are the worst kind of product to have to sell, and they’re just as tough to advertise. Here’s an example of how deeply people resent grudge purchases – my partner is a health practitioner. She specialises in helping adults and kids sort out symptoms involving speech, breathing, appearance and other oral related concerns, and she does it all online.

It’s easy to see how much some patients resent having to go through the treatment. Yes, it has the potential to change their lives or the lives of their children, but it’s just another thing they didn’t want to have to spend over $2,000 on, let alone to have to work intensively with her for months on end. So they show up late, miss appointments or occasionally, they just drop out entirely. Some don’t even sign up in the first place even though they need the treatment and a dentist or orthodontist has referred them. Cutting off their noses to spite their faces you might say.

On the other hand, my partner also teaches other practitioners how to do what she does. These clients are fired up with the idea of starting a new career, earning more money, and even perhaps moving to a new phase in their lives. They’re always there, always on time, and they’re totally involved in the process. They know that they both needed and wanted this purchase. That’s the holy grail of sales and marketing, and it’s nice to have that kind of product or service if you can get it.
But what do you do when you can’t? When you’ve got something that’s not just a parity product but also a grudge purchase? It’s tempting to advise you to just close the doors and go fishing but there’s an enormous amount of money to be made in that space – this stuff always sells remember? You just have to sell more of it than everyone else.

The answer is that you have to stand out. Not by being the official tyre of Formula One, or the approved deodorant of the All Blacks but by being better than everyone else in some way that’s both tangible to your existing customers and can be marketed to your potential customers.

Which brings us back to the aforementioned good reviews. In an environment where all the products are much of a muchness, you need to have positive customer feedback and proactive engagement. You have to find a way to shine. If you offer a service, then do something, anything to offer extra value. And at this point, let me clarify that I don’t mean giving something away. Instead, could you set up the best call centre in the country, with the lowest waiting times for example?
If you’re selling products, then what could you do that your competition simply can’t or won’t? More useful information on your website perhaps? Product demonstrations? There has to be some way to actually engage with your customers.
And once you’ve done all that, you still need to look at your marketing with a fresh pair of eyes. If everyone in the game is doing one thing, you might want to do something different. A prime example of this type of thinking can be found in this case study:

How does one launch a product into a market with a strongly entrenched competitor, especially a product that no one really cares about because it’s just something used by farmers to treat cows?

Well, you do the exact opposite of what everyone else is doing. Then you get results like these:

  • It sold 406% above forecast in less than two months.

  • The product sold out in two months and all advertising had to be temporarily halted so that production could catch up to demand.

  • After just one year in the market, it’s the third biggest product of its kind in New Zealand.

They said it couldn’t be done. It can if you’re brave enough. And yes the campaign was planned and executed by my brother but 406% is 406%. End of story.