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Thursday, October 18, 2007

Non-marketing brilliance

Inside the Pro Hockey Life store in Vaughan, Ontario, the world's largest hockey store.

Jeff Goldberg doesn't have a website nor carry business cards for his tenant fit-up and retail design/contracting service. He doesn't have any employees, working from his home. Yet his business does more than $8 million in contract volume a year, from some of the smartest and most market-savvy Canadian retailers.

In fact, he told me today in the presence of one of his most enthusiastic clients that the upcoming feature about his business in Ontario Construction Report will be virtually his first marketing activity since he started his business about a decade ago. (And this initiative is because our GTA-area co-ordinator Chase's work in encouraging him to have the feature written.)

Goldberg, who started doing work for Chapters, still has Chapters/Indigo as a major account. Keith Hunt, senior vice-president at Pro Hockey Life, knew Goldberg from when he worked at Chapters, and invited Goldberg to handle the interior fit up of the new, and rapidly expanding, group of hockey super-stores. Hunt offered one of the most enthusiastic testimonials for a supplier I've ever heard.

"I have no idea of how he (Goldberg) does it," Hunt said. "He is incredibly detailed and organized . . has tab in his binder for everything, he is just the most organized guy I’ve ever met."

Pro Hockey Life is expanding from its Montreal base; the Vaughan Mills store is its first in Ontario and is the largest hockey-only store in the world.

This is a 34,000 sq. ft. store where you can find virtually anything and everything associated with hockey. My eyes lit up as I walked past rows of skates, sticks, goalie pads -- even a sizable area dedicated exclusively to referee gear.

We also had some fun in the store when I mentioned that my 10-year-old son Eric is a serious hockey fan -- I found a hockey shirt for him, and Hunt introduced me to an employee who is a dead-on lookalike for Ottawa Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson. So we set up a posed shot with the employee dressed in a Senators' uniform.

When I returned home this afternoon, I said: "Eric, do you recognize who is in this picture" and showed him the image of the look-alike employee. Eric let out a whelp, before I came clean, and gave him the hockey shirt I had purchased at the store. (Hunt graciously sold the shirt at the employee discount rate.)

OK, really talented retailers with rapidly growing businesses who need to market effectively to attract and retain clients use a designer/contractor who doesn't advertise, doesn't have a website, doesn't have any employees, and doesn't even have a business card. I had a 'wow' reaction in the hockey store, and an even greater 'wow' reaction when I heard this story.

Of course there is a reason why Goldberg is successful and doesn't need to market assertively. He is super-talented at his craft; he provides undeniable value to his clients, and (in part because his clients are also successful in business) he has no shortage of repeat business.

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