The Canadian Chairman
May 17, 2012 by JoBe Cerny
One day I got a business call from Canada. A man who owned a Canadian chair manufacturing company was coming to Chicago to exhibit his chairs at McCormick Place in an exhibition of office furniture. He asked me to type his website address into my computer, so I did. It took just a second to load since his website was just a single page.
He eagerly asked: “What do you think?”
I told him what I saw. “The website tells me the name of your company. And I see six pictures of six different styles of chairs that a customer can order from you.”
Again he asked: “So, what do you think?”
“It’s pretty straight-forward.”
Then he caught me off guard: “Does it excite you?”
I didn’t know what to say so I said: “I don’t know what to say.”
“That’s what I thought you’d say. In fact most people say that. The photographer who created my website said a photograph was worth a thousand words.”
I didn’t say a thousand words because I was speechless. Instead I pointed out that there were six photos with two words under each photo:
Then he asked me: “Do any of those ‘words’ excite you?”
“No. The truth of the matter is I am more of a couch man, myself.”
He sounded offended: “What’s exciting about couches?”
I wanted to say “naps”, but I held my tongue and waited for him to ask me another question.
“I’m spending a lot of money to come to Chicago to sell chairs. I need to make my website exciting. Any idea what I could do to make my website more exciting? The name of your company is called Cerny/American Creative. Do you have any creative ideas to make my website exciting?
I began with the obvious question: “Did you ever think about using color pictures instead of black and white photos?”
“No. The photographer said this would make my website moody and edgy.”
I tried another approach. “Did you ever consider having attractive fashion models pose with your chairs to give them some personality?”
“Wow!! That is a great idea! Could we do that?”
“Sure, we could! We could bring the chairs into a photo studio . . . “
“No time to do that. Let’s shoot them at McCormick Place instead. The show ends at 9:00 P.M. each night, and we could shoot all night.”
“Well, shooting all night at McCormick Place would be pretty expensive. And the models would want overtime rates.”
He seemed shocked. “Wait, wait, wait! This is the internet. The photographer told me the internet is free. Why would the models want money?”
“Well they would have to drive downtown and pay for parking at McCormick Place and then work all night. They’d have to bring changes of clothes . . . ”
“For sure! But that would be okay because they would have international exposure on my website for free! Everybody in Canada would see these fashion models. You never know who will be looking at my chairs. This is a universal product line that appeals to everybody. Everybody needs to sit down! Right?”
I couldn’t argue with that. “What did you pay for your website?”
“Almost $2,000.00!” (I didn’t bother to ask if that was American or Canadian money.) He went on to say: “But, this year I want to spend less!”
Then I told him I didn’t think I could help him. Good thing he owned a chair company . . . because he took the bad news sitting down.