Lying in the Bed You Made

This is a story of how a national mattress brand managed to turn five sales into just one.

Several years ago, my wife and I were shopping for a new mattress for our older daughter. She was 12 and had outgrown her “little kid” bed. As it happened, my brother-in-law had just bought a Helix for himself — which, at a family dinner, he was raving about (without our prompting).

We decided to check it out. The Helix hit all our buttons:

BRAND: Great consumer ratings. All kinds of awards. My brother-in-law’s firsthand testimony (albeit “honeymoon” testimony). Plus, a 100 night risk-free trial. Helix was a relatively new brand (at the time), but one that inspired immediate confidence.

VALUE: Every reliable product-review site we could find essentially described the Helix as a slight step down from a Tempur-Pedic, but at half the price. For my 12-year-old daughter — who weighed all of 100 pounds and had been sleeping comfortably on a standard spring mattress for years — the value proposition here was high.

OFFER: For a limited time only (!!!) we could buy a Helix and get $150 off the already competitive price, two free memory-foam pillows and free shipping. Why wait? Our daughter was overdue for a new mattress. We’d done our research. The offer was sweet. Plus, again, we had 100 days to return it with no questions asked if there was an issue.

Order placed.

In a vacuum, this is a success story. But human beings don’t live, nor spend money, in vacuums.

Flash forward four years. My younger daughter, now approaching 12, was due for a new mattress. Plus, we now had a vacation house on the Jersey shore. The mattresses on those beds were awful, so we needed three more: one for the master bedroom, and one for each of our daughters. That put us “in-market” for four new mattresses in total.

We’d bought the Helix four years before, and it remained a good purchase. My older daughter sleeps well every night. No complaints.

But … that was four years ago. The mattress space had changed. Now there were a bunch of Helix-like brands coming for our business: Casper, Leesa, Purple, Saatva, Tuft & Needle, etc. Each brand was interesting in its own way, and the price points were all in the same ballpark.

All of the sudden, “going with what we know” didn’t feel like a prudent move. It felt like a liability. What cool new technology, or great new deal, or opportunity to reduce our carbon footprint, etc., might we miss out on if we just bought another Helix?

Today’s marketplace moves so quickly, changes so rapidly, that a product you bought only a year ago can feel antiquated. Helix went four years without ever reaching out to me. Worse, they spent four years banging the same messaging drum (more or less).

Here are 3 simple things Helix could’ve have done to earn my business a second time — which would’ve made me a 5x more-valuable customer:

LEVERAGE OUR HONEYMOON: Reach out to me right after the purchase and make sure I’m satisfied.  What do I like best about the mattress? Is there anything they could’ve done better to improve my experience? Get me to reaffirm my purchase decision and come away feeling like this company really cares about doing things the right way.

KEEP ME IN YOUR LIFE: Keep me up-to-date with what you’re doing — via email, remarketing display, social media, etc. Don’t be obnoxious about it; I certainly don’t want to hear from a mattress company every day. But if you’ve improved a product, won another award, are involved in a philanthropic effort I may care about, etc., let me know about it (while reminding me that you exist).

SHOW ME I’M SPECIAL: What about a customer appreciation program that entitles me to an extra $100 off, on top of any publicly available offers? And what if that offer were extended to my “friends & family” as well? Now I feel like (a) I’m getting something here I can’t get anywhere else, (b) I’m leaving $100 on the table if I don’t use it, and (c) this company really cares about, and stands by, it’s customers.

Deborah Wahl, Cadillac’s CMO, talked recently about the difficulty of managing an iconic, worldwide brand in the modern age. “You have to do that in two ways,” she explained. “First, you sell the core. And second, you need to work and have an eye toward the future.”

Sell the core. And work with an eye toward the future. Helix did the former, but not the latter.

They “sold the core” with messaging created almost exclusively for first-time buyers. But by ignoring their actual customers post-purchase — and not engaging them with an eye toward the future — they missed out on incalculable opportunity.

So take note. Don’t sell your own brand short. A sale is not a relationship. It’s only the beginning of one.


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