When a large, well-established company finds itself losing business to low-cost competitors, its challenges may be complex and deep-seated. But the right solution may be surprisingly simple and cost-effective. Here’s the story of how we analyzed the obstacles facing one of our clients and created a priceless solution that’s still paying off.


Our client is a manufacturer of high-quality industrial fans used in a wide variety of tough and demanding industries. The company has been around since 1927, and its products are sold by over 50 independent reps throughout the U.S. and Canada.

Despite its reputation for producing top-quality industrial-grade fans, our client faced new challenges when commercial-grade fan companies started encroaching on its turf. The newcomers were marketing their lightweight products at a lower price, and some of our client’s customers were biting.

Facing this new competition, our client’s reps wanted it to reduce its prices. But our client was understandably unwilling to lower its margins to compete with inferior products. The reps also wanted more money spent on advertising. But management doubted whether more advertising would create the real value they needed, since previous marketing campaigns had produced disappointing results. Tension between the company and its reps was at an all-time high.

This is when the company brought us in to take a look at its situation.

Taking the Deep Dive

After reviewing the details with management, engineering, and other key players, we went out into the field to talk to the reps. We found that in many cases, the reps supplied more than just fans, so sales were not always direct to the end customer. This meant that our client didn’t even know who its end customers were. It didn’t have sufficient information about its customers’ needs and the final application of its products. Obviously this created marketing challenges.

So after talking to the reps, we got access to the engineering firms that were buying and using our client’s fans. We talked to everyone involved—from purchasing to engineering to maintenance. We gained insight into the customers’ individual needs, and into their perception of our client’s fans and those of its competitors.

We came back to management with the results of our research. We all agreed that we needed to address a long list of challenges at once. The challenges fell into two categories. One set, which revolved around communication with end customers, included the following items:

  • Educating end customers about the value of our client’s fans—their superior quality, performance and ROI compared to the competition
  • Educating customers about the wide variety of fans and other air movement solutions our client had to offer
  • Competing head-to-head with inferior commercial fans—but not on price
  • Rebuilding our client’s legacy brand awareness
  • Gaining access to end customers in order to get their direct feedback

The other set of challenges revolved around communication with reps, and included items like these:

  • Building better communication with reps in the field
  • Providing better training and education for reps
  • Connecting reps to the real decision makers at customer companies
  • Supporting reps by providing a show-and-tell solution that would sell itself

We discussed these challenges with our client. We agreed with them that spending more money on magazine ads, trade shows and lead lists would not be an effective strategy.

To tackle our client’s top line problems, we needed a tactical solution that could offer accountability and measurable results. And we needed face-to-face contact with reps and customers spread out all over North America.

We needed to take our show on the road!

Finding the Tactical Solution

Working with our client’s reps and the support of its technical team, we built a traveling display of our client’s products. We mounted a variety of industrial fans on a 50-foot trailer and attached it to a truck emblazoned with our client’s logo. We then embarked on an odyssey across 48 states, visiting customers, engineering firms, HVAC companies and technical colleges.

We took a lead role on the project—from planning and designing to budgeting and logistics. Working closely with our client’s team, we took responsibility for delivering a finished product ready to hit the road for a year.

During the course of the journey, we provided updates to our client. We kept in close contact with its reps throughout the country, creating a buzz and a PR extravaganza.

Reaping the Rewards

The truck-and-trailer concept, which was launched in 2012, is still paying off for our client. Currently on its third revision, the project has been enhanced through digital media and technology: QR codes attached to the fans allow customers to access specifications with their cell phones. And the company’s Facebook page provides updates on the journey and alerts prospective customers to visits in their area.

Our client’s reps are thrilled to have this unique marketing tool at their disposal. Many have come up with their own creative ways to use the traveling display—tailgate parties, lunch-and-learn opportunities, open house events, mini trade shows, college recruiting and much more.

In addition to dramatically increasing its market presence, the face-to-face interaction with its end customers has been a boon for our client. The direct communication has led to new projects and applications. Customers have suggested product enhancement ideas that have been implemented and repurposed for other market applications.

Our client has been able to face down its competitors by educating end users about the ROI value of its products, thus eliminating the pressure of competing on price. As one engineer-manager said, “It’s one thing to look at a drawing, but to actually touch the product and see the physical attributes, along with the manufactured quality, offers huge value and understanding for our design team.”

From the Golden Gate Bridge to the shores of Cape Cod, our client’s traveling display has been impressing end users and delivering top line results. We exceeded our client’s expectations by coming up with a marketing solution that can be described with one word: Priceless!

For a priceless solution to your marketing challenges, call GRAYJAY today.

Brian Payne