The Best Ad Ever


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On my ride to work each morning I pass what is probably the best ad ever. It’s on a small, 24” by 18” plastic sign stuck in the dirt at the side of the road.

It says, simply, Stump Grinding.

There is much about this sign to like. The font is large and the dark letters against the white background make it easy to read. I can make out the words at night, in the rain, and even when we had that freak “but isn’t winter supposed to be over” snow storm.

No weird fonts. No odd colors. No whirligigs that distract from the message.

The sign declares, simply, what they do. They grind stumps. It then proffers the necessary contact information.

That’s it.

The sign doesn’t say “Stump Grinding…and More.”

The sign doesn’t tell me who is doing the stump grinding.

I learn nothing about the trucks they drive or the equipment they use or when they were founded. I don’t even know their names.

After reading their sign I knew I was never going to call them if I need a deck replaced or an invisible fence installed. They would not be my first choice for a little concrete work or to have a door hung. I doubt if they do house sitting.

The singular focus of the sign was compelling.

I am also intrigued by the sign’s location. It is at the northeast corner of Blairs Ferry and Milburn. This is a busy intersection (at least by Iowa standards). While waiting for traffic I often looked over at the sign and was reminded again about their core business. As I gazed at the sign my mind began to imagine all the possibilities. I thought about my stumps. I thought about trees I have that I wish I could reduce to stumps. I thought about my neighbor’s stumps.

That sign has opened vistas in my mind I didn’t even know I had.

Last fall I cut down a tree and I needed to have a stump removed.

I was excited.

I called the number on the phone. A woman answered, “Stump grinding.” The directness and certainty of her voice was intoxicating.

I hired them to remove my stump. One guy showed up. Ford truck. Vermeer stump grinder. True Temper® rake for the cleanup.

It took him exactly 17 minutes. It cost me $90.

The guy’s name was Floyd (really, I’m not making this up). After the stump was out he asked if I needed help putting in a new tree.

“But I thought you only did stumps,” I said.

“Well,” he replied. “We actually do a few other things, but we like to keep the signs simple. People get confused when we tell them too much.”

I wanted to take Floyd to lunch. I wanted to ask him if he had read Ogilvy or Hopkins or Lindstrom. I wanted to know what blogs he read and what conferences he attended.

But somehow, looking at Floyd, I figured he didn’t bother with all that stuff. He was a natural. He knew his business. He knew people. And he knew how to connect the two.

I didn’t take Floyd to lunch that day. Instead, I watched him pull into my neighbor’s driveway. I’d told AJ that I was having a stump removed. He didn’t want to miss out on the action. He’d made his own appointment. He had a stump he needed removed, too.

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