My favorite sled is heading into its nineteenth year of service. I got it the year Parker was born. It is an ugly orange plastic sled with no fancy features. It isn’t eye-catching or sleek in design. It isn’t decked out with racing stripes or shiny vinyl that makes you think it will fly down the hill at supersonic speeds. There is nothing about this sled that would make you choose it over all the other fancy ones on the shelves.
Yet it still remains my favorite because it is still the fastest sled on the hill. It still travels farther faster than any of those other sleds. Oh, and it will hold me and two boys with ease (even now in their teenage years!)
When the boys were just five and two I took them to Michigan’s number one rated sledding hill—The Cascades. There are two sides to the hill. The north side is steeper and dominated by the older kids. The south side is gentler—as long as you take the long path toward the playground equipment. Take a left turn toward the east and you hit some bumps and trees and have a shorter trip toward the road.
Most sleds don’t have to worry about the road. It is too far away.
My sled is not most sleds.
Have you ever watched a trainwreck about to happen, knowing there was nothing you could do to stop it? The whole world slows, just like in the movies. I had that happen this fateful day.
I put both boys in the sled and gave them a push toward the playground. Then I watched with horror as the sled veered left toward the trees. It was just then I realized the boys were too young and inexperienced to know to flip the sled over and bail out before you hit a tree. They were also moving too fast for me to be able to yell anything they could hear. I momentarily thought about running after them. That was fruitless. They were already entering the bumps and careening toward the pines.
I took my first breath as they missed the opening row of trees. I held my breath as they zoomed past those pines on their way to the road.
The road at the bottom of the hill makes a curve, sweeping around a concrete embankment. Although the posted speed limit is 20 mph, many cars take that blind corner at 30 or 35. I could only pray no cars were coming as the boys hurtled onward across the small parking lot toward the road. No one would see that ugly orange sled with two young kids until it was too late.
My stomach dropped another foot. My heart leapt up into my throat. Time … Stood … Still …
I was already trying to figure out what I would say to their mom about how I killed our boys.
The sled finally lost momentum just as they reached the curb. The snow plows had made a small embankment on the curve, and I watched terrified as the boys went up that embankment and teetered on the edge for eternity before sliding safely backwards away from the road.
I let out the breath I had been holding and dropped to my knees. The boys came rushing back up the hill. “Do it again! Do it again!”
It is the ugliest sled on the hill, and just as expensive as its more sleek rivals. I’ve been using that exact same sled for 19 years and wouldn’t change it for the world.
You would never pick this sled off the shelf amongst its prettier rivals. But when you want the fastest, farthest ride on Michigan’s top-rated sledding hill, there are none that will beat it.
PS This post is about Word-of-Mouth. We’ve been talking about WOM all week. You have heard that Stories Sell. Stories sell for several reasons.
- Stories are interesting and get people engaged.
- Stories are emotional
- Stories are memorable
- Stories are shareworthy
When you tell stories about your products, people remember and relate to those products—whether they need the product or not. That last part is the key. They remember that product when they run into someone else who needs that product. Then they tell that person about the product for you. I could have told you about how the plastic on this sled is twice as thick as the other sleds of its type making it more rigid, which gives it speed, and makes it more durable. But you might not remember that. You will, however, remember the story of the two young boys hurtling to their death because the sled was too fast.
I told this story on Facebook years ago for Toy House back when I had about 1500 fans. The story got shared a dozen times and reached over 5000 people. When you tell shareworthy stories, your fans spread the word for you. You have stories to tell about your products, your vendors, your founding. Share the funny, scary, and touching stories and you will see your word-of-mouth advertising go up dramatically.
PPS This is what Facebook, Instagram, and other social media are best suited for. Go tell your stories.