Think back to your childhood and the utter delight of imagining buried treasure. Treasures have a story and a historical connection to the past, perhaps that’s why their promise holds such intrigue.
Now imagine having a business as a full time treasure hunter. That’s exactly what Chris Turner, The Ring Finder (www.theringfinders.com) does. I met Chris at Grouse Mountain recently. I was downloading after doing the Grind, and he was returning from a successful mission to retrieve a visitors ring in the snow.
I was absolutely fascinated by his story for a couple reasons:
– He has a niche business offering: he is a metal detector detective. He reunites people with their lost items.
– There is a well-defined target market: people with sentimental and valuable pieces of jewelry, lost keys and other items that were thought to have been lost forever.
– He has differentiated his business and strategy: he offers retrieval services in the lower mainland, will travel for a fee, or he will link you through his directory to associated providers worldwide.
– His business grew out of a childhood passion: at 12, he saw an ad for a metal detector in his Dads magazine, saved up and bought one. He’s been hooked ever since.
– He loves what he does and ultimately makes people happy: he’s in the smile business.
– He works on a reward basis: customers pay what they think his service is worth, and what they can afford. He’s worked for a $1,000 and he’s worked for a loaf of banana bread.
– He donates 15% of revenue to Children’s Hospital: giving back is priceless.
He used to get 4 calls a year, and now gets more than 75 mostly due to referrals, networking and online search. I asked him what was the most common retrieval in 18 years of business. “Wedding rings. Taken off and thrown in the heat of an argument with immediate regret. I’ve had many of those!” notes Chris. And the most memorable story? “Well that would have to be the couple from Australia. They were traveling through the Rockies by car. She had taken off 5 rings, gifts from her late husband, and rolled them in the fold of her shirt while putting on hand lotion. She completely forgot about them when they got out at the roadside to take a photo. It wasn’t until they were about to board their flight back to Australia from Calgary that she realized what had happened. She was devastated. They boarded the plane, but the fellow returned several months later, rented a car and found the roadside spot based solely on the photo he had taken there. With a fork, forging in the dirt on two separate days, he retrieved two rings. He returned to Australia, but a year later he came back, this time employing my services to find the other three rings. We drove the stretch from Calgary to a GPS setting he had taken. We passed miles and miles of roadside construction, and I could literally feel his heart sink. Remarkably as we rounded the corner to the spot where they had been lost the crew was still short of the site. With my metal detector, we were able to find the remaining three rings. It was a remarkable story.”
Of course Chris is a boy with his toys. Packing a bag full of super sleuth stuff he looked to be a cross between a pirate and James Bond. He’s now planning to launch a service to exclusive resorts for the über rich. He figures they loose things too, and they are likely to pay handsomely for retrieval. That and the fact that the resorts accepting their $50,000-100,000+ per night stay on exclusive islands would be equally motivated to satisfy their guests. And there just might be exotic travel involved.
What’s the marketing lesson in this story? Have a distinct business offering, that’s valued by your target audience and not easily copied. Know your target segment, and cater your product/service offering, pricing, promotion and distribution with that target in mind. And finally, do what you love. If you take care of everything else, profit will follow.