Publicity for Commodity Created More Tool Kit Sales

Malcom Company sells a line of plastic welding tool kits and I’ve been preparing innovative news releases about the kits for about 20 years.  The tools combine heated air and pressure to weld plastic and can be used for repairing tanks and vessels, automotive bumpers, personal watercraft, canoes, snow mobiles, you name it.  Virtually anything made of plastic.


While publicizing these plastic welding kits for different applications, it occurred to me that the common thread to all of them is plastic welding rod.  So I thought, why not publicize plastic welding rod by itself?  At first the client balked because it is a commodity.  But, the idea seemed logical and he reconsidered.  Customers who purchase plastic welding rod would be become prospects for plastic welding kits.  Besides which, plastic welding rod is a neat consumable; similar to razor blades.


Preparing news releases for commodity products is a terrific opportunity because very few companies bother doing it.  Most people figure everybody knows what plastic welding rod is, so why bother.  How ironic, not publicizing what people need routinely.  Exactly the wrong attitude!  What Venmark did was prepare a news release featuring the rod, materials, variations, configurations, etc., and created a very colorful and eye-catching photograph that would not be market-specific.  The news release was very successful and the plastic welding rod received a great deal of press coverage in-print and online including a leading automotive consumer publication and several major industrial publications and websites.  Phenomenal exposure which would have cost thousands of dollars had it been advertising.


What happened next was fascinating.  After seeing several really neat press clips, I called Jon at Malcom and said, “You’ve had some terrific product publicity for the plastic welding rod, you must have sold a ton of it.”  “I didn’t sell any, he said.”  There was silence on the other end of the phone and then laughter!  I was stunned, but he continued, “The fascinating thing about publicizing the plastic welding rod is that we sold more plastic welding kits as a result of that publicity then we did when we publicized the actual kits themselves!


The product publicity for the plastic welding rod drove traffic to the company’s website and the visitors clicked-thru to the plastic welding kits and bought them.  Again, the result was selling more kits then publicizing the kits themselves!   The beauty of this approach was the measurability.  Malcom was able to identify which publications and websites produced the most leads and their corresponding ratio to sales.  That took the mystery out of their marketing efforts.


The big lesson here is that it is impossible to predict what product is going to generate the most valuable sales leads for you.  The key is to publicize all categories of products and evaluate the web traffic, click-thrus, and resulting orders.  There isn’t always a linear relationship between what is publicized and what the resulting sales are.  In retail they call it a “loss leader.”


Steve Stroum

Steve Stroum

Steven M. Stroum, founder and president of Venmark International is a seasoned publicist, marketer, and entrepreneur who has been featured in INC Magazine, Sales & Marketing Management Magazine, Industrial Marketing, OMNI Magazine, USA Today, The Christian Science Monitor, Boston Globe, Boston Herald, The Middlesex News, San Francisco Chronicle, and other media outlets. He has also appeared on numerous radio and television programs, addressed many business and civic groups, and been a guest lecturer at Boston College, Babson College, MIT, and his alma mater Northeastern University.

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