Are you selling vanilla?

Suppose you decide to open an ice cream parlor. More than likely you will face a number of competing ice cream parlors. You will battle a host of competitors all screaming for the consumer’s attention. The rallying cry of your new industry might well be, “I scream. You scream. We all scream ‘ice cream.’”

It’s a tough business you’ve entered. You know you’ve got to promote yourself. So, you ask yourself, “What do most customers want?”

You check with the International Ice Cream Association and discover that the number one flavor is vanilla. In fact, vanilla is preferred by more than a three to one margin over the number two flavor. Okay, that’s it. You’re going to promote vanilla. You’re going to paint, “Vanilla ice cream here!” on the window of your storefront. You’re going to devote your yellow pages ad to the theme, “We’ve got vanilla!” Everywhere you can, you’re going to trumpet your vanilla ice cream.

You’re going to go out of business.

People want vanilla, but they won’t go out of their way to seek you out because you sell it. If they happen to try your vanilla and like it, they may come back for it, but they won’t say to themselves, “Hey, let’s try Bubba’s Ice Cream Parlor. He’s got vanilla.”

People expect an ice cream parlor to have vanilla. Everyone’s got vanilla. It would be remarkable if you did not have vanilla.

So why do you promote your company by selling vanilla? Does your marketing include one or more of the following…

“Quality Service”

“Fair Pricing”


“Fast Service”

“Free Estimates”

“Service All Makes and Models”



“We’re The Best”

“Reasonable Rates”

“Radio Dispatched”

Nearly all service companies push vanilla when attempting to persuade people to do business with them. Okay, you claim you’re “top quality.” Yawn. So what? Are you going to say, “lousy quality?” It’s assumed that you’re quality, just like it’s assumed that the ice cream parlor offers vanilla.

Use Humor

Truly Nolan, a pest control company, uses the tag line, “Licensed To Kill.” It may not be compelling, but it is sort of cute and clever. It is different. And ultimately, it is what people want from a pest control company.

Use Alliteration

Phoenix contractor, Hobaica Services uses the tag line, “You’ll lika… Hobaica.” The tag came from a memorable jingle that sticks in your head once you hear it. “You’ll like Hobaica” would be vanilla, but the alliteration from “lika… Hobaica” makes it stand out and presents the impression of a fun company.

Be Different From the Competition

BMW and Mercedes are both high end German automakers. To stand apart from Mercedes, which focused on luxury, BMW focused on performance. It’s the “ultimate driving machine,” declared BMW. For more than 40 years, BMW has stuck with the slogan. In fact, when Advertising Age printed a rumor that BMW was going to drop it, BMW owners started a petition to keep the slogan.

Sell Benefits
One of the great “benefit” slogans was the Roto Rooter jingle. People still think, “and away go troubles down the drain” when they think about Roto Rooter. In fact, the success of the jingle likely impeded the company’s expansion from pure draining cleaning into full service plumbing.

Make a Promise
What can you claim that no one else has? Federal Express started with the unique selling proposition, “When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight.” Fed Ex may not have been the only delivery service with overnight capabilities when they started, but they were the first to make it the focus of the marketing message. It sure beats, “fast delivery service.” Fast by who’s standards? Fed Ex made a statement. They said, “overnight.”

Be Unique
What can you say that no one else can? For nearly twenty years Hallmark Air Conditioning in Houston trumpeted an award they won, proclaiming themselves to be “Residential Contractor of the Year.” None of their local competitors could make that claim.

Stress Your Authority

A Dallas foundation repair company promotes the fact the company’s founder wrote a textbook on foundation repair. I don’t know if he even published it, but it sure sounds impressive.

Everyone’s got vanilla. It’s expected. Selling vanilla won’t make you stand out. What flavor do you offer that no one else sells?

Matt Michel is CEO of the Service Roundtable, which helps contractors increase sales, boost profitability, and save time. Visit their store at to order a copy of the new book, Inside Contracting: How Top Contractors Win in HVAC. To contact Matt, email him at [email protected], read his blog at, call him toll free at 877.262.3341, on his mobile at 214.995.8889, follow his tweets @ComancheMktg, become his friend on Facebook, become a Facebook Fan of the Service Roundtable, and connect on Linked In.

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