I just got back from the Blade Show in Atlanta. Which begs the question, “Why would a guy on blood thinners go to “The World’s Largest Knife Show?” Three reasons really: Food, Friends and Field Research.

Atlanta has long been one of my favorite eating destinations—not “fine dining,” mind you (although there is certainly plenty of that available), but just some good downhome, southern cookin’— biscuits and gravy, fried chicken and greens, Barbeque, sweet tea and banana puddin’. Second, I produce a very popular radio show, for a friend, and we had planned to do a live remote broadcast from the show floor. Plus, and this is a huge plus, anytime I get a chance to study a niche market in their own environment, I’m all over it.

While everyone else at the show was busy looking at the sharp, shiny objects, I was busy watching them.

I’m a big believer, in using human nature, to effectively drive a marketing campaign. Watching the folks at the blade show got me to thinking of a very effective, yet highly underutilized marketing strategy that’s rooted in human nature. I call it the collecting instinct, and this week I’d like to reveal some ways you might effectively use it to your advantage.

I really have no idea what genetic predisposition controls it, but human beings have a seemingly inbred tendency to collect shit. All kinds of shit—coins, stamps, cars, dolls, comic books, Star Wars memorabilia, t-shirts, the red and white string wound around bakery boxes —you name it, there’s likely a group of people out there who collect it.

For me it’s fountain pens, expensive watches and fine, handmade, leather writing journals—I’ve got dozens and dozens of the damn things, from all over the world (it’s really more like hundreds and hundreds, but just in case my wife reads this, I’m sticking with “dozens and dozens”). I’m not alone.

Look around. You collect shit, too. Everyone does.

Collecting brings great joy and satisfaction to the collector, and if used correctly, great advantage to the marketer. So, whenever you’re selling something, it is important, to recognize that there is always going to be a segment of your market that collects the very stuff you’re selling.

In the direct-response marketing world, selling collectables to collectors has long been recognized as a very healthy and robust market niche. But the collector’s instinct is not limited to just those things one might think of a collectable; it’s universal. So even if you’re selling something that might be considered ordinary, or then again, something on the other end of the spectrum, entirely—say, a high-end luxury item, there’s always going to be a segment of your market who will, if your offer is structured correctly, buy more than just one.

I have a long-time coaching client who is in the liquidation business. She specializes in buying excess inventory from defunct and struggling jewelry stores; rings, bracelets, gold, silver, diamonds, watches—you name it she buys it.

When I first met her, she was treating her luxury watch inventory much the same as the rest of her general jewelry inventory—meaning, she quickly flipped them at discount prices, to various retailers around the world.

The first thing I did, when we started working together, was to convince her to pull the high-end watches out of her main inventory and instead of wholesaling them, market them directly to luxury watch buyers, via direct mail, at top retail prices.

To begin our marketing campaign, I suggested securing a mailing list comprised solely of people who had already recently purchased a luxury watch.

My suggestion was met with, well, let’s be kind and call it “skepticism.”

I wasn’t at all surprised at my client’s incredulous reaction. I anticipated it. And that’s because most people believe that trying to sell something to someone who already owns whatever it is you’re selling is a horrible idea.

“After all,” they tend to argue in defense of logic. “The people on this list already own a brand new luxury watch—they just bought the damn thing—why on earth would they buy another?”

Ah, that’s where CounterThink comes in.

Although it might seem counterintuitive, someone who has just bought a luxury watch is actually the perfect prospect to buy another luxury watch. Why?

Well, because many… no, make that most buyers of high-end watches, actually own several watches. Many even collect them. The same can be said of people who buy expensive pens and handmade leather writing journals. (As an interesting aside, there is actually a sizable crossover market between luxury pen buyers and luxury watch buyers, but that’s a discussion for another time.)

Getting back to our example… without making any changes in her business other than how and to whom we resold our watches, my client was able to triple her net profit in under 18-months.   Luxury watch owners gobbled up the new inventory and we ended up spinning off a whole new—direct to consumer—division of her company, that specialized in finding and securing rare and exotic watches for their clients.

But here’s an interesting twist: you don’t have to sell the actual collectable to capitalize on its marketing power; you could simply build it into the marketing model for another product or service.

The Hess Oil Company has been doing this kind of tagalong marketing for decades with their official Hess toy trucks. But that tactic is nothing new, in the 1950’s merchants of every shape, size, form or flavor used S&H Green Stamps® to attract customers to their stores with wonderful success.

Back in the day, as a deal sweetener, professional speakers like myself started giving away a complete set of audio or video recordings to everyone who registered for a high-end seminar (the smart ones still do). I run into people all the time who have a bigger collection of my shit than I have.

The takeaway here is to find something of value that your market already wants, and make it into a collectible.

Next week, I’ll share some more insights I gained while walking the Blade Show floor.  I’ll tell what I think was done well, what could have been improved, and what really shit the bed.

Until then… stay weird, my friend