fbpx

#015: An interview with a small business that applied the Wrigley formula from episode 4

Meet Rick Showers.  He does not sell gum.  He sells used RVs and he applied the lessons from Wrigley’s and is growing like crazy.  New sales record after new sales record.  Learn what he is doing to grow and the lessons he has learned along the way.

Clockwise from upper left: Rick Showers, David Young, Stephen Semple

David Young:

Welcome to the Empire Builders podcast, teaching business owners, the not-so-secret techniques that took famous businesses from mom and pop to major brands. Stephen Semple is a marketing consultant, story collector and storyteller. I’m Stephen’s sidekick and business partner, Dave Young. before we get into today’s episode, a word from our sponsor, which is, well it’s us, but we’re highlighting ads we’ve written and produced for our clients. So here’s one of those.

[No Bull RV Ad]

David Young:

Stephen, today we’re heading off in a different direction almost. This is our first interview podcast episode.

Stephen Semple:

Yeah. And I am so excited today. We have a real empire builder on our show with us today as we have Rick Showers, he’s an owner of a small business that applied one of the lessons from the Empire Builders podcast to his business. He’s just exploded from that. He’s having record months, months after months. And the reason why I’m excited about this is so often people listening to our podcasts will say, “Well, that worked for Wrigley’s and I’m not Wrigley’s.” Or “Wrigley’s sell candy, and I sell RVs, or that was in 1920s, how about today? Or that was New York, and I’m in a small town outside of Edmonton,” All these reasons why it wouldn’t work well. Here’s Rick to share a story. A small RV dealer that’s outside of Edmonton that applied the lessons of Wrigley to his business in the spring of 2020.

David Young:

Wait, in the spring of 2020. What happened in the spring of 2020?

Stephen Semple:

There was this little, let me think, what is it? It had a number of next to it, oh right, COVID. The pandemic happened.

David Young:

So right at the start of it.

Stephen Semple:

Right at the start of the pandemic, we’re taking our story back to that moment. And here’s the thing, from that moment, he’s doubled his business. So for full disclosure, Rick is a client of ours. And the ad that you heard at the beginning of this podcast was written by one of our partners, Mic Torbay. And it has run on several radio stations in Rick’s market. If you’ve not heard the Wrigley podcast, I suggest you go back to it and listen to it now, before listening to this interview.

Stephen Semple:

So I just want to set the stage. It’s the beginning of the pandemic, frankly, the world is going to shit, everything is closed, people are panicking, and Rick sells a luxury item. In the vast majority of the times when a recession or panic happens, the first thing that goes in the shitter is luxury items. They’re the first thing that get nailed, right? So at the time, no one knew RV sales would benefit. Like that was a surprise. We’ve got to remember that was a surprise. So here’s all this pandemics stuff going on, Rick’s shop is closed, everything’s closed. There’s worry about sales and we come along and suggest to Rick, Hey, here’s what we think you should do. You should increase your marketing budget, which he did. And I’m going to tell ya, I mean, that took guts. Most people would’ve kicked me out of their office and we know advertising was getting cut right left and center because we saw it with our media partners.

David Young:

Well, thanks Stephen. Rick, thank you for being on our podcast.

Rick Showers:

More than welcome. Glad to be here.

David Young:

And I know this is an audio podcast, but as we’re recording this on a Zoom meeting, you’re in the woods, you look like you’re in a way better place than either Stephen or I, enjoying yourself, enjoying some nice weather up in Canada. How long have you been in this business?

Rick Showers:

Oh, heavens. I started in sales in this business, I think back in 2004. So 16 years, 17 years, somewhere like that.

David Young:

So you weren’t just starting out in 2020.

Rick Showers:

Oh, heavens, no. We were in our sixth year in business on our own in 2020.

David Young:

If I’m not mistaken. I mean, you’ve seen some pretty big ups and downs just in the economy.

Rick Showers:

The city that we’re in, in mid Alberta is typically oil patch country. There’s a lot of oil field manufacturing that goes on here. And of course that had taken a big hit in around 2015, 2016. So there tended to be a steady decline in discretionary dollars being spent in our market.

David Young:

And so that’s even before we start talking about a pandemic.

Rick Showers:

Yeah. Except for one, I mean, we sell used products, so we don’t sell brand new RVs. We sell used ones, which we’ve always felt there’s always a market for something used in good condition.

David Young:

How did you first meet Stephen and your a Wizard of Ads team that put this plan together for you?

Rick Showers:

I had been following Roy Williams for, heavens, for many, many years through the Monday Morning Memo and so on and had previously gone down and had Jake and Rex do one of those white videos for me when I was in sales, so I could use that to market myself as a sales agent. So that worked well. I’d been down to the academy and I think it was towards the end of 2019, I decided, okay, we need a shift in our business. I’m passionate about the science behind the Wizard of Ads philosophy as well as the fruit that it produces in business owner’s lives. And I knew that we’d kind of hit a certain mark and I needed help pushing over that, and I knew that it had a lot more than writing catchy radio ads. I knew there was a lot more depth to it.

Rick Showers:

So the one that pushed me over the edge actually was Mic Torbay’s video on real matters. I saw that and I was like, you know what, that’s it. So I reached out to Mic initially, we had a quick chat and then he suggested a partner of his, Stephen Semple. And I think we started with the boom your business thing, and you gentlemen came out in one of the coldest February’s I think in Alberta, in years to our little shop and interviewed in-person and so on. And that’s how we got the ball rolling.

David Young:

At what stage of all this were you in when people started to realize that this pandemic was a real thing and it was really going to start affecting people and business especially?

Rick Showers:

We had already made a commitment financially to the Empire Builders by that point, we’d had our media buyer arrange the schedule on one of the FM stations up here that we committed to. And so that’s about the depth that we were in.

Stephen Semple:

We literally had ads written, the media purchased and were about to start.

Rick Showers:

Yeah, three ads were approved and recorded. We were ready to go. And then it became a real serious thing mid-March. I remember, it was my birthday, is in mid-March and I’ll never forget that.

David Young:

And we had different clients react in different ways. I had some that were like, “Yeah, let’s double down.” And I had some that were just like, their hair was lit on fire and ran for the Hills.

Rick Showers:

I think, you know, depending on the industry and the depth of knowledge, like I was at that time of very, very new client and I hadn’t seen any kind of results from anything because we hadn’t even really been on the air yet. I think actually what ended up happening was I was getting frustrated because I thought we should be on the air. I think originally our target that we talked about was March 1st and then for one reason or another, it just didn’t come together. And now it’s mid-March, now this whole thing is happening. And I thought, okay, well, whatever, I’ve already made a commitment. I’m not going back on my word. We’re doing this regardless. And then it turned out that ended up pushing through and persevering. We got a smoking deal in those two weeks, between the 15th of March and the 1st of April. And we ended up going on the 1st of April on air, but now with two stations. So it worked out really, really… I was laughing with my wife about it and I’m like, “Jeepers, that one month of me being a little bit pushy paid off huge for us.”

Stephen Semple:

But the thing I want to stress is while Rick said he committed money he was going to spend, we came back to him and said, “Hey, dude, let’s spend more.”

Rick Showers:

Yeah, that’s true. That’s true. Frankly, it didn’t turn out to be that much more in our world, but it was more of a spend and probably like a lot of your clients that go on the air for the first time, of course, you want to hear your ad on the radio. So I was listening to the stations we were on and it didn’t seem to me, because I didn’t have anything to compare it to, I’m not a big radio listener. It didn’t seem to me at the time that our ads were on any more than they ought to have been. I did notice, and Stephen and I had talked about that, that our competitors totally fled from the marketplace. So we were able to benefit being the only RV dealer on the air on those markets and certainly with a relevant, entertaining message as well.

Rick Showers:

So, what ended up happening was, fast forward it to a year later, and now when I turn the radio on and listen to the ad breaks, which is really all I listen to, there’s so many different advertisers from different categories and everything. And I was chatting with Stephen a while back. I said, “Boy, I didn’t realize how much share of voice we were grabbing at that time because I’m hearing advertisers, like I’ve been listening for a year, I am hearing new advertisers on there that weren’t even around. So understanding now, I understand just how few people were actually advertising during that initial few… Well, probably up here, it took about six or seven months.

Stephen Semple:

Which means he was… You were the only thing people were hearing.

Rick Showers:

So from the Wizard of Ads point of view, and salients and the chickening out period and seed time and harvest, what ended up happening was all of the results accelerated massively. And as soon as people realized, we still can go out camping, we were just inundated with people and phone calls and emails and so on.

David Young:

It’s interesting that acceleration just based on share of voice, especially when you consider that, not only did your competitors chicken out and quit advertising, but so many other businesses did that, it’s not even so much that you’re running more ads comparatively to your competitors, but there’s just less clutter, right? There’s just fewer ads on, and so yours are going to stand out. It’s going to make the impact of them.

Rick Showers:

It was a perfect storm, it really was for us. And I know that it affected a lot of businesses negatively and I don’t want to gloat about the industry that we’re in, certainly, but it worked out very, very well for us. It was one of those decisions when we had that meeting mid-March with all of the Empire Builders on the team and they said, “You know what? I think you should be stretching a little bit here.” I don’t recall if I was initially reluctant, I don’t think I was because I do understand the portfolio that these men carry, and I understand the success stories and they’ve been very open about sharing some failure stories too. But I had a lot of trust in the wisdom and their confidence actually rubbed off on me a bit, even though we were heading into uncharted water. And when it comes to stuff like that, Dave, I’m just in for a penny, in for the pound. Just damn the torpedoes and let’s go for it and let the chips fall where they may.

David Young:

Jump and the net will appear, right?

Rick Showers:

Yep.

Stephen Semple:

That’s what I love about you Rick.

David Young:

In your category, are you, I don’t want to say close, but in some business categories, you know, like all the air conditioner guys in town know each other and chat. Are you friends with your competitors?

Rick Showers:

We rub shoulders from time to time. I don’t really, I’ve never really liked industry events, so I kind of stay away from that stuff and the boys club and all that. I have noticed in about the last two weeks I walked in, and actually the other day I walked into a competitor’s store, and it’s not the first time I’ve been there. And I just walked in to buy a random part that we needed to get an RV ready. And I got helped like I usually do. And then all of a sudden the salespeople approached me because I’ve walked past them, I can’t tell you how many times over the last seven years, and now they get up out of their desk and come over and say hi and see how things are going, because in our category, one of the big challenges a lot of dealers are having is that they cannot physically get inventory.

Rick Showers:

It doesn’t matter how much money they want to throw at a manufacturer, they can’t physically get inventory. Whereas the business we’re in is in consigning and reselling used RVs, and our campaigns are largely around bring your RV to us, we’ll sell it for you, you’ll get the money you want and so on and so forth. So we have a never-ending supply of these things apparently because it just keeps showing up day after day after day. So I’ve got plenty of inventory, and if you’re a commission salesperson looking out the window saying there’s 23 pieces I have to sell on my six acre lot. I’ve got 23 units to sell where normally this time of year I’d have 350, so I can understand. So now we’re starting to make some noise and get a little bit more attention.

David Young:

Approaching you because they’re hungry and they’re getting up out of their desks because you’re a stranger walking onto the ladder, or is it because they know who you are?

Rick Showers:

Oh, they know who I am.

David Young:

They know who you.

Rick Showers:

They understand who I am. And Stephen had kind of told me about this. You know, you’re going to have a little bit more of a profile and our TikTok thing has taken off and we’ve got a wonderful girl doing our digital stuff that took us to a whole different level. So all of that notoriety in the category is starting to pay off, and what we’re really hoping for is that it starts to attract some really, really good people to our company.

Stephen Semple:

Just for background, Rick’s being modest, he’s had some videos recently that have gone through a million views.

David Young:

Gosh, that’s pretty good.

Rick Showers:

It adds up. Well, I had one at 1.5 and I’ve got another one that I think it’s 700 and some, and another one that’s 300 and some. Oddly enough, you’d think on a platform like TikTok, it would just be crazy, weird stuff. But it’s not, it’s me actually standing there talking about how not to use your RV fridge or how to use it properly and stuff like that. And people seem to love that shit. Any of those instructional type things, they’re the ones that seem to get a little bit more action than the ones that are a little bit goofy.

David Young:

Just being informative and entertaining while you’re doing it. So the reason I was asking about your competitors, I’m curious, between competitors, family, other business owners in town, what kind of feedback did you get when all of a sudden people are hearing your ad all over the place in the middle of the pandemic?

Rick Showers:

Well, we deliberately don’t ask people how they heard about us when they contact us, but inevitably they just do. They want to tell you, they want to share with you. And we’re always grateful to hear their story. And it entertained them, it impacted them. Some people, of course, you’re always going to get the ones that that’s a stupid ad. I recently heard from, I think it was our media buyer, that when he was talking with the radio station, we did a message about me missing my granddaughter who’s from Australia. We did a message about that for our December video, our commercial rather, and that’s the one that got all the complaints about. It’s like, “Oh, so we’ll probably do another one this December.”

David Young:

I guess where I was going there, though, is did you get pushback from people thinking, oh my God, Rick is just crazy running all these ads right now?

Rick Showers:

No, I think that our staff, we spent some time internally reviewing the ads at reviewing the concept, reviewing the relational buyer and who we’re trying to attract to our customer base with our staff so they kind of had an understanding. My company doesn’t have a committee very often. So we’re doing this. This is what we’re doing. Don’t worry about what it costs. It’s fine, we’re good. Pushback from competitors, I don’t know. I’ve walked into competitors’ places where the radio stations playing, and while I’m talking to the owner of the boat store, my ad comes on and he just kind of looks at me.So jumping into that space, it did have an impact because a lot more people mentioned it. I was at the gas station recently and I walked in with a shirt on and everything, a logoed shirt, and the attendant and I were just chatting about something. And, oh, I had a problem with my points card. They had my name spelled wrong and the points card. He says, “I’ll fix that.” So he’s typing it, and he says, “What’s your first name?” I said, “Rick.” He says, “Oh, I should have known. Heard it on a radio. Sorry.” So he knew who I was based on that, so that’s kind of cool.

David Young:

Really, once you started pushing through on this, how quickly did results start coming in? I mean, because a lot of other advertisers are off the air, your competitors are off the air. People finally starting to figure out, oh, we can go out camping.

Rick Showers:

One thing, Dave, that Stephen and the team recommended was a tracking method. Like in our advertising on the radio, we only tell the web address. We don’t say our address, our phone number. All we tell is our nobullrv.ca. So one of the tracking methods of course, is watching for online traffic increasing. Now we went on the air starting beginning of April, and I would have to say that by the third week, that fast, it started to move up. I could be incorrect. Stephen would know exactly that number, but it wasn’t long. And that’s what I mean. We were so very blessed and fortunate in that perfect storm that we were the only person in our category talking about something, and as soon as people understood that they could at least go out camping, the general public. I’m the only one on those two stations that anybody knows anything about.

Rick Showers:

So they all came out of the woodwork. And I think the first messages, if I wasn’t mistaken, I think the first three messages for the first three months was all about selling your RV and that part of it, people coming to us, bringing their product to us rapidly increased right from the beginning. Because again, with all the uncertainty going on, people were like, “I’ve got this depreciating assets sitting in my driveway, let’s get out of it. Let’s just turn it into money. We don’t know when the world’s going to end. And that unfortunately happens every time there is a general panic, right?

David Young:

What’s really cool is you you end up in a position where you’re doing well with both sides. You’re helping both sides solve their problem, and that’s good for you in both directions, right? You’re helping me if you can buy, and that gives you inventory and you’re helping somebody else if they want to buy.

Rick Showers:

We’re serving the guy who’s selling it and needs to get out of it or a family that needs to get out of their product for whatever reason, and then we also offer that product to sale for somebody else. All the while, not having to invest a whole lot of money in our own inventory. Naturally we take trade-ins and stuff like that. But the idea of the model I think was what attracted Stephen and the team to us as well as us being attracted to them.

Stephen Semple:

One of the messaging strategies that Rick very quickly signed off on was, as we know, one of the things is the less you can say, the more powerful it is, especially in a short ad. And most people would go, “Buy, sell, consign.” Well, what I know is if we sit there and say, “We’ll sell your RV.” Guess what all the buyers of RVs know. We got RV’s for sale.

Rick Showers:

Now I understand it totally. I got it. But what I understand totally now is it’s almost insulting to an intelligent person to tell them you can consign, or we don’t even use the word consign in our ads. That’s the brilliant part of it. Because our competitors now that are on the air, they say, “Consign it.” What we say is, “We’ll sell it for you.” And that’s more of a real statement that that would resonate with someone because a lot of people don’t understand what consign even means, but that’s the beauty of it is we don’t need to overstate the obvious. And why waste… What did Mic say to me one time? You only got so many characters you can put in a 60 second ad, why waste ad space on that? There’s no point. They can draw the conclusion and it makes them feel smart.

David Young:

Rick, what have you learned through all this?

Rick Showers:

I was already mentally committed several months beforehand. Actually the seed had been planted, as I mentioned over the years. Honestly, I wish I would have done it a lot sooner. However, it worked out well for us. What I learned primarily was that if you want to grow something, there’s got to be some life living, things grow. So if we want to call it fertilizer, you got to pour the fertilizer on when it doesn’t seem like it’s the right time to do it. And you just got to tend the thing. The biggest thing I learned was all of our internal systems, once we started getting busy the way we were getting busy and attracting the people we’re attracting, all the warts showed up. And that’s what we had to deal with was a lot of, “Oh geez, we’ve got to change this process, we got to do this, and we got to do that.” So it was a very maturing process for us, all the way through, but I’d do it again.

David Young:

Being busy tends to really draw attention to the little hiccups in the systems.

Rick Showers:

Oh, heavens. Yeah.

Stephen Semple:

So what I heard Rick say is that we threw a lot of shit on his system.

Rick Showers:

Well what it did… Here’s the thing is that when you’re a smaller owner-operated thing where you can touch every employee every day and talk to them every day and spend time with them every day, what ends up happening is that you’re there to solve problems. So as problems come up, you can just make decisions and solve them as they go. As we started to get busier and add more reach with what we’re doing and some more depth, what we came to realize very quickly is that we needed to systematize a lot of what we’re doing and eliminate, I hate to say it this way, but eliminate as much communication between the management and the employees, if we can eliminate it via process. In other words, I don’t have to tell you how to do the paperwork, I don’t have to tell you how to say the words, because that’s exactly the way that you’re trained.

Rick Showers:

And the other day, my wife and I were talking and I realized, you know what, this time last year, there’s 10 people working in our company right now that weren’t with us this time last year. And we’re a company of 16 people. So it’s like, oh my goodness. And it wasn’t that we got rid of 10 people to bring 10 new people in, it’s that those 10 people are here to support what’s going on now. So, that’s where all of this started to click was, my goodness, I can’t run around helping everybody with every little thing. I’ve got to be able to systematize a lot of it, if I can say it that way.

David Young:

What advice would you give somebody who’s just setting out to start their own empire?

David Young:

Stay tuned. We’re going to wrap up this story and tell you how to apply this lesson to your business right after this.

[EMPIRE BUILDERS AD]

Brought to you by the least full-of-shit marketers association of America. Yes, that’s a low bar, but we clear it mightily. We’re also the largest pay per performance branding group in north America, and that part’s for reals. If you’re looking for advertising advice geared towards local owner operated companies, this is your podcast. And now you can pick the brains of these advertising geniuses over lunch, without having to pay for lunch or even leave your office. We’re talking 90 minutes of straight answers to all your burning questions about lead generation, customer acquisition, mass media branding, how to get off the paper crack treadmill, anything you want. And the only coin required is candor, because we can’t give no bullshit advice without basing it off no BS data on your company, competitive landscape operations and all that jazz. We send you a presumed questionnaire. You fill it out candidly and boom, Bob’s your uncle, you’re in like Flynn. And we’ll be Frank as fuck in giving you the straight scoop on all the advertising and business growth questions you always wanted to know, but we’re too afraid to ask.

You’ll also get our no-pitching and no-bitching guarantee. No-pitching means we won’t pitch you or try to sell you in any way. If you want more after 90 minutes, you’ll have to ask. And no-bitching means if you don’t think the meeting was worth your 90 minutes, we’ll send you a hundred bucks. Consider it us picking up the tab for lunch and putting our money where our mouth is. Sound like a not-so-full-of-shit offer? Well, that is what we’re known for. Take us up on it at empirebuildersprogram.com.

David Young:

Let’s pick up our story where we left off and trust me, you haven’t missed a thing.

David Young:

What advice would you give somebody who’s just setting out to start their own empire?

Rick Showers:

Well, pick up the phone or email Stephen or the Empire Builders, certainly one of the group ideally. What they bring to the table is a lot of varied backgrounds, varied experiences. As I mentioned, they they’ve got the success stories and the failure stories, but it’s not a matter of writing a cheque for advertising. For heaven’s sake, it’s a lot deeper than that. It’s about having a business model, I guess, that they embrace and buy into, you embrace and buy into some of the ideas. And if you trust the process and you trust the science and you trust the system, it’ll work, but you have to stay consistent with it. If you’re not consistent with it, it’s not going to work. And that would be probably my biggest advice. If you want to grow all the tools, all the technology is there within this organization, and they’re there to help you. The thing I love about it Dave is they don’t get a pricing raise unless I get a raise. So we’re partnered in this together as a team, or as a family I like to think of it all the time, and we’re in this for the common good. Let’s go and take over the marketplace.

David Young:

I love it. Anything else you’d like to share with us?

Rick Showers:

Stephen.

Stephen Semple:

You know, there’s only two things I’m going to ask. And one, it’s really interesting when again, we go back to the Wrigley story and there was two elements to the Wrigley story. One being what they did in the 20’s, and the second being what they did in world war II, when shelves were empty and they continued to advertise. And one of the things that’s remarkable in Rick’s market is his competitors have stopped advertising because they got nothing on the shelves. Well, Rick being the empire builder he is, guess what we’ve now done? We’ve increased our advertising because what we know is 6, 8, 10 months from now, they’re going to start getting inventory and they’re going to start advertising. Well, by that time, guess what? We’ll have been out there for longer, with even a larger audience and even a larger megaphone owning that market. By the time they get inventory and stick their heads up, Rick’s won.

Rick Showers:

If I had anything to add, it would simply be this. Our company’s on a path where our competitors, due to the lack of inventory, have not gone on the air. And the beauty of the messaging and the core messaging that we use, it’s not necessarily all about, come see the latest blah-blah-blah, it’s, we’re building a story. We’re building a relationship between our listeners and our company, and excluding a number of people, like we totally exclude the guy that wants to come in and negotiate and everything. He doesn’t do well with us. It just not who we are. So what ends up happening is we don’t have to go on the air talking about a great big sale, or we’re going to be given this away and giving that away if you come and buy from us today or anything like that. What we’re doing, and what we continue to do is reach out with relevant information, with a relevant story, into the marketplace and build an audience and a loyal following whether we had inventory or not. Like if something happened tomorrow, when we don’t have inventory, we’re still going to continue doing it because we’re committed.

Rick Showers:

So we added a third station now, with that in mind. At some point, this may normalize the unusual growth that the RV industry has seen, may normalize again. But I know in my heart of hearts that that’s why websites like Kijiji and Craigslist exist is because people will always buy a used anything. And because we sell used, we’re positioned perfectly to take advantage of that going forward in the future. And if everybody says, “You know what, we’re tired of this hole… Open this park right now.” My wife is of course shopping for a bigger lot and a bigger trailer and everything else. But there’s five or six people that have said, the management comes to me and says, “You know what? They’re done with camping there. They’re moving on.” They’ll sell you their, their camper, their site, everything, if you want it. So that happens, life and death happens, things happen in people’s lives and they always need someone to help them get out of their product. And that’s what we’re here to do for them.

Stephen Semple:

So here’s the only thing I want to add. I want you to realize when we’re reading about Rick and his national empire that you heard it here first. And Rick, when you’re that billionaire business owner flying around in your private jet, you’ll still take my call, right?

David Young:

This has been a treat. Thank you, Rick Showers, for spending the time with us and telling us your story, especially as we can relate it to some of the topics that we’ve already covered on Empire Builders.

David Young:

Thanks for listening to the podcast. Please share us. Subscribe on your favorite podcast app and leave us a big fat juicy five-star rating and review at apple podcasts. And if you’d like to schedule your own 90-minute empire-building session, you can do it empirebuildingprogram.com.

Scroll to Top