NPCG: changing the conversation

Situation – No inventory, no glossy catalog
National Playground Compliance Group (NPCG) came to MMG because it wanted to compete with larger playground equipment managers in the school market place. Shannon Godwin, NPCG program manager and marketing contact, explained that its competitors relied on thick, glossy catalogs and huge inventories of ready-to-install playground equipment. NPCG made custom equipment so it didn’t have the slick catalogs or the product inventory. But they did have a staff of articulate program managers equipped with the research and knowledge necessary to design and install a safe and accessible playground…something the distributors representing competitive brands didn’t offer or want to offer. But how do you get soccer moms to get past the glossy catalog?

Strategy – Change the conversation
With no glossy catalog to impress prospects, NPCG slowed down the process and conditioned the market to talk about safety and ADA accessibility. I recommended breaking the conversation down, starting with a new brand mark and planning guide (below, right) that introduced safety and accessibility issues and positioned NPCG as the experts in both areas.National Playground Compliance Group planning guide The guide – like all the new materials – featured engaged, happy and smiling children to further change the conversation from playground equipment to safety and accessibility for every child. It was provided to prospects when they made their initial call for information.

During the second engagement, the program manager walked the prospect through a buyer’s guide (below) which included safety and accessibility articles, research reports, case studies, examples of play experiences by age groups, frequently asked questions and a planning grid. It provided a workspace for the prospect to document the discussions, questions and issues generated from the planning committee, and gave the program manager content to formulate the safety and accessibility conversation.

The final piece was a three-ring binder that held the planning guide, the buyer’s guide and allowed the program manager to present the custom proposal.

The visual theme – featuring stock and client-supplied photography of happy kids – was carried out in a trade show exhibit, the website and in rack cards (right) distributed by state school boards that endorsed NPCG to their members.

Results – A different kind of engagement
The new sales approach changed the look and feel of the prospect engagements. They were deeper and more focused on the topics NPCG was best equipped to address. According to Shannon, they didn’t make a connection with every prospect who called, but those who responded to the positive play approach appreciate NPCG’s expertise and believed it helped them make a better purchase decision.

What made it work?

  • It was different
  • It was built on the brand’s strength
  • It leveraged emotion
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