You would think that hurricane season would be the perfect time to sell "Storm Pruf Storm Rooms," a prefabricated safe room built inside a home or office.
But a family-owned business in Orlando, Fla., is having a very tough time.
"There is nothing on this earth that is going to pull our room out of the ground," said Joan Riech, vice president of Storm Room Systems. "The room we install can withstand 430 mph winds and that's when our wind tester failed, not the room."
Unfortunately, many entrepreneurs are in the same position as the Riechs; they have a great product, but can't seem to convince customers to buy it.
"We thought, 'Oh, everybody will want this, because it's safe," said Joan Riech.
The National Weather Service in Jacksonville, Fla., is forecasting an above-normal storm season predicting 11 or more tropical storms and hurricanes in the Florida area between June and November. Better yet, the Weather Service office has its own concrete shelter built inside the office.
"We believe in the need to have a safe building," said Fred Johnson, the warning coordinator meteorologist for the Weather Service. "We have a safe room that's practically a vault it's reinforced with two feet of concrete all the way around."
Despite the perceived and real need for such rooms, Florida-area homebuilders aren't pushing their customers to install them. Still, the Riechs believe so strongly in their product, which retails for $8,500 per room, that they've spent $100,000 on product development, advertising, engineering and legal costs.
"The problem isn't with customers, it's with the homebuilders," said Harry Riech, who has been in the construction business for 30 years. "They are already making money, and they don't want to change."
According to Riech, some builders won't offer clients the safe room because they think it makes the homes they are building appear weak. Other builders say they can make more money if they build their own "safe room" for their clients.
So, what's wrong with the Riechs' marketing strategy? I explained the scenario to two sales experts, and asked for their advice. "The first thing they should do is change the name of their product," said author and syndicated columnist Jeffery Gitomer, founder of BuyGitomer.com.
"The Storm Pruf Room should be called the 'Storm Safety Shelter,' that way, people really know what it is and what it does," said Gitomer, who also recommended promoting the product through the media, especially on television, since it's so visual.
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