Meet Heinz Tschiemer. He’s 35, married with three small kids, has an Economics Degree and now builds Alphorns.
Tucked away in the small village of Habkern, about a 10 minute drive from Interlaken, Switzerland, Heinz produces about 1,000 Alphorns a year for an international market which believe it or not includes Japan!
Barbara and I spent about an hour chatting with him the other day, while he showed us how he manufactures each instrument by hand.
Before we get into some interesting marketing lessons we gleaned, here are some facts about Alphorns you probably didn’t know.
Even though they’re made of wood, Alphorns are considered to be part of the Brass Instrument family. The mouthpiece is quite similar to a French Horn and takes a similar level of embouchure skill to form clear notes.
The length of the horn determines the pitch which is tuned to F#.
And perhaps more surprisingly, while most players come from Germany, Austria and Switzerland, you’ll find around 200 of them as far away as Tokyo.
Let’s face it though, it’s a relatively small worldwide market. You could say it’s a niche within a niche. And there are more manufacturers than you’d expect.
So how does Heinz handle the competition?
Surprisingly (and refreshingly) Heinz said, “Competition is my friend. Most people when starting out buy a cheaper Alphorn, but once they get serious, realise the cheaper quality doesn’t stack up, so they come to me”.
Most of his clients come via word of mouth referral and are willing to pay about $1,200 more than for the mass produced variety.
Heinz knows his numbers. Exactly how long it takes to produce each instrument, but believes he can only charge a standard amount along the same lines as his major competition for each instrument, even though some varieties take longer to build.
Asked why, he responded, people won’t pay more.
Well, the short answer is some will. If you can explain the value in terms they understand and are willing to pay for.
And the easiest way to do this is to explain in detail exactly what goes into the delivery process so clients understand why they’re receiving a quality product that stands head and shoulders above the competition.
One of the best examples from over 100 years ago is how legendary marketer Claude Hopkins promoted Schlitz Beer. You can read about it here.
So if we were marketing Heinz, this is what we’d say.
We start with the best raw materials. A specific type of pine which only grows above a certain altitude in Swiss mountain forests. The higher altitude produces slower growing, therefore denser wood, which gives the Alphorn a unique, deep resonance and tone.
The limited supply of wood means a limited supply of Alphorns. And we all know the supply/demand equation.
Each Alphorn takes about 50 hours to make by hand. We design and produce innovative mouthpieces that can be adjusted to your lip specification.
Our Alphorns are precisely tuned and come with a lifetime guarantee so you know you’ll have years of pleasure playing the instrument.
And that’s just for the standard edition.
Modern Alphorns can be disassembled into 3 pieces (imagine transporting something 3.6M long otherwise). But Heinz makes a premium version which breaks into 4 pieces without any loss of fidelity.
But even though this takes over 10 hours more to make, he doesn’t charge extra. Believes people won’t pay. But they will if he explains the benefits and the extra work involved.
Remember, all marketing is communication.
By explaining his process and giving it a name (I’ve made up the Bernatone50 process) – Heinz immediately sets himself apart.
The irony is all handmade Alphorns are produced in similar ways. But like the brewers of old, none bother to explain to their prospects why they should buy, so there’s no way to differentiate.
Marketing doesn’t have to be complex. Simple ideas generally win!
Want help explaining your product or service in ways that will help your prospects (and clients) go, “I get that, I want it…”, give us a call on 0414-913-334 and get the ball rolling.