Posted by: jcardillo | 2 August, 2009

Honest Consumer Relationships

Josh Kadis recently tweeted about Campagnolo’s new chain tool for their 11-sp gruppos. Because of the very tight tolerances involved in such a setup, only Campagnolo’s (at least for now) chain tool will do. You can acquire said chain tool for $300, or more than what I paid for the elements of my last handbuilt wheelset. However, it’s not the price I have a problem with (if you’re dropping $18b on a gruppo, what’s another $300), it’s Competitive Cyclist’s description.

For a long time, Competitive Cyclist has written incredibly detailed product descriptions including backstory, product details, usage instructions, and even some of the issues associated with said product. Whether or not this is a good use of their marketing effort, I’m not sure. At the end of the day, this is not the industry you get into to become rich and if those product descriptions don’t hurt sales while making it more fun to come into work, I say “Rock On!” Not terribly long ago, they also started blogging. The blog is interesting because it’s a no-holes barred stream of consciousness session. Not infrequently, they also provide much more insight into the economics of online retailers and their relationships with suppliers, importers, customers, etc. I find this really interesting and a great way of establishing a trusting, honest relationship with all of those parties.

The product description for the Campagnolo chain tool seems to break that previously established trust. Rather than their typical honest write-up, it seems they’ve applied their wordsmithing abilities in a limited fashion to Campy’s in-house product description and plopped it on the page. For a small bit like this, it seems to pass the ROI test, but in relation to their broader strategy (I assume it’s a strategy) of using content to build an honest relationship with their customers, it seems to fail.

IMHO, a typical description with the standard level of snark would have been more appropriate – something more like this (my edits in bold).

The 5.5mm width of the Campagnolo’s 11 speed Ultra Shift chains makes them the quietest and quickest shifting chains they’ve ever made. It’s also their toughest-ever chain design thanks to the retention force inherent to its Ultra Link technology. The benefits of the Record 11 speed chain are all byproducts of its narrowness, but this narrowness comes with one implication: The installation process requires an unprecedented degree of precision. While, like you, we find the $300 price tag a bit shocking, until the aftermarket manufacturers come up with their own options, this is a required add-on to any Campagnolo 11-sp purchase. We have no doubt in its quality, based on their long history of great tools (we’re thinking of the facing and chasing tools…), and therefore have no problem recommending this until such time as either Campagnolo comes to their senses and/or the aftermarket manufacturers build their own version.

Might it piss off Campy? Maybe. Will it burn a bridge somewhere? Perhaps. Is it worth it to continue and even expand their reputation as an honest dealer that has their customer’s best interests at heart. Definitely.

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