Marketing toilets & other grudge purchases

sleek black toto toilet from japan

Tyres are a grudge purchase. Buying them gives you no pleasure. Fire extinguishers, same deal. Buying or hiring toilets; pretty much the same. You might have to buy them but you don’t have to like it.

Talk to the sales people in these industries and they are a little embarrassed about how boring their products are to customers. Actually, this turns out to be an advantage.

How do you market to customers who are yawning, resisting or rolling their eyes?

The advantage you have is that their expectations are low. But if you look at any product area closely enough, you’ll find wit, design excellence and human story-telling. If you invest in quality writing and research, you’ll entertain your customer and position your business as passionate and innovative. That’ll generate business.

Here’s an example. You’re hiring out toilets. You have a range of products which are as boring as bot shit. So I’ll share the e-newsletter solution I developed for this at the bottom of the article, but let me say a little about the strategy first.

Your communication should not be about your products. Two reasons:

First, your comms is about your brand. In the case of a grudge purchase that’s going to give you more scope than product. Let’s say your brand is about premium quality, attention to detail and close personal connections. That’s a broader context. You take away the sales agenda and replace it with a licence to entertain. Suddenly you can write about anything that is top quality in your industry or anything that speaks to great customer service. And if your reader enjoys your content you have permission to communicate more regularly. More regular keeps you top of mind and the next time they need toilets, they’re thinking about you, not your competitor.

Second, you can use good content to establish your brand – what you stand for. If your newsletter includes articles about leading designers, you’re positioning your business as having better design smarts than your competition. If your newsletter is amusing, you’re positioning yourself as more personable.

A minority of articles should be specifically about your business – your people, your new products, your offer or your new case studies. Your reader will tolerate that in the context of something that’s engaging. For God’s sake keep it short. Mine is seven short paragraphs; less than a page. I get one newsletter that is twelve pages long. Up to 30% of the text is in bold.

Colourful, entertaining newsletters have an important advantage. They leverage your direct sales activity. When you pick up the phone and talk to a customer, they start telling you what they liked in your last newsletter. I know from experience that happens a lot. Builds rapport, builds relationship; valuable stuff.

If you’d like me to develop a newsletter/marketing strategy for your grudge purchase product, flick me a note. Can’t guarantee I am knowledgeable enough to write about your All American Dog Mullet Headband with Extensions but goddamn it, my heart is in it. Wait, that’s not a grudge purchase.

So let’s test this out. Put yourself in the shoes of a purchasing officer dealing with toilet hire – here’s your toilet newsletter.



  1. Liked your toilet, newsletter. Interested in what it would cost for you to come up with one for the autoglass/windscreen industry for non insurance customers (cash paying people).

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