Some things never get old. For many baseball fans, it's singing “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” on opening day. For fishermen, it's that wonderful sound of a prize catch leaping through the water trying to spit the lure. For veteran electrical industry marketers, it's the indisputable truths of promotion, marketing and advertising like those captured in McGraw-Hill's well-known “Man in the Chair” advertisement.

More than 40 years ago, McGraw-Hill first published a classic ad depicting a grumpy customer sitting in a banker's chair with these classic lines:

  • I don't know who you are.
  • I don't know your company.
  • I don't know your company's products.
  • I don't know your company's customers.
  • I don't know your company's record.
  • I don't know your company's reputation.
  • I don't know what your company stands for.
  • Now…What was it that you wanted to sell me?

This advertisement was developed to promote the importance of advertising in McGraw-Hill's stable of magazines (which included Electrical Wholesaling and Electrical Construction and Maintenance magazines, until they were sold in 1989 to our current owner) to prospective advertisers and to reinforce the power of advertising to current advertisers.

The message rings true not only in the case of magazine advertising but also for any of the many methods a business can use to get a message to prospective or existing customers. If you are not out there telling your story, how do potential customers know you exist? This basic marketing philosophy applies to electrical distributors, independent manufacturers' reps and electrical manufacturers, too — particularly in today's tough market. Just because business is bad doesn't mean your company should stop marketing itself.

The electrical wholesaling industry has had its share of master marketers over the years. I will never forget the sight of Ron Kinney, former president of All-Phase Electric Supply, Benton Harbor, Mich., with a bullhorn at the booth sessions of an NAED regional in Marco Island, Fla., urging vendors to come into his booth.

Terry Hunt, founder of Houston Wire and Cable, Houston, also comes to mind. After selling his share of Houston Wire and Cable, in 1991 Hunt started up Futronix Corp. in an effort to build a national distributor of surplus electrical equipment. The flamboyant Hunt, who had been already been featured in two Electrical Wholesaling cover stories for his innovative management and marketing style with Houston Wire and Cable, loved publicity, and he desperately wanted to make the cover again with Futronix. When I visited Futronix one day to check out the company, he playfully threatened to keep me hostage in a car and drive me around the Houston beltway until I agreed to feature him on the cover again. (The article didn't make the cover.)

You don't have to run a company the size of an All-Phase Electric Supply or Houston Wire and Cable to master the power of marketing. It works for companies of any size. If you are not sure where to start, go to and type “your stuff” into the search engine. It will lead you to the October 2001 EW article, “99 ways to sell your stuff.” The article is loaded with the type of marketing ideas that may prevent you from having to endure a meeting with the “Man in the Chair.”


As long as we are talking about shameful self promotion, I would like to mention the national award Electrical Wholesaling magazine recently won from the American Society of Business Press Editors (ASBPE). The “Electrical Market 101” series of articles that ran in 2002 won a bronze national award for best series of articles. It's one more example of how our editorial efforts bring you the information you need to run your business more profitably.

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