Hurricane Andrew August 24, 1992
On August 27, 1992, I experienced a “close encounter of the strangest kind” that led me to develop a powerful new marketing strategy. That day, I saw hundreds of Home Depot trucks heading south down I-75 and I-85 through Atlanta. Seeing so many of their trucks at one time, I assumed they were having a huge convention in Florida.
I soon realized that the caravans had nothing to do with a convention, but instead, Andrew—Hurricane Andrew. Three days earlier that killer storm destroyed or damaged more than 75,000 homes and killed 65 people in South Florida.
To make matters worse, price gougers sold water, food, and building materials at highly inflated prices. In response, Home Depot raided its southeastern stores and sent building materials by truck to Dade County, Florida, the epicenter of the storm. Unlike its competition, Home Depot kept prices on plywood and other items at pre-hurricane levels and became a shining example of how to treat and help your neighbors during a crisis.
It was a public relations coup. For more than a week, the news media showed countless examples of evil price gougers capitalizing on the suffering and then compared their behavior to Home Depot—the community’s new model citizen. Home Depot could not have purchased better goodwill or advertising.
That experience gave me a unique marketing idea. To strengthen our moving company’s relationships with office building managers, I offered them a free disaster recovery program. Since it was before the Internet, I wrote the following letter to every building manager in Atlanta:
“Dear (Building Manager):
Do you have a disaster recovery plan? What if there were a fire or flood in your building in the middle of the night or on a weekend? What would you do?
In addition to calling a plumber, an electrician, and a janitorial company, you might need an office mover to salvage the furniture and help you recover from the disaster. But moving companies are closed at night and on weekends.
As a token of our appreciation of your continued support and recommendation of our company, we are offering you our free disaster recovery program. If you register your building with us, we’ll give you a number to call—nights and weekends during nonbusiness hours—in case you have an emergency and need our service.
What will this cost you? Not one penny more than our already competitive moving rates for a move of that time of day or day of the week. If you would like to enroll, please contact us…”
In other words, we offered the program for free but not our moving services—we’d charge our normal overtime rates for a move at night or on a weekend. Whether the building managers recommended us or not, we still thanked them in our letter.
We mailed more than 100 letters, and 37% of the recipients signed up. Something amazing happened two months later that increased our enrollment to more than 60% that I’ll share with you in my next blog.
Be sure to join our Group at https://www.linkedin.com/groups/12060567
For more information on our online office moving training, please visit
http://www.officemoves.com/training/index.html or call Ed Katz at 404.358.2172.