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Earlier today I received an email from a Festool employee asking that I correct a price on my recent post asking your opinion about the Kapex vs. the Bosch Glide. I’m happy to correct the price, of course, but it struck me that, despite the fact we’ve written about Festool numerous times and our readers have expressed a lot of interest in the brand, today’s email was the first time I can remember Festool ever reaching out to us in any way. This reminds me yet again how much I wish readers could fully share the tool journalism experience. You can learn a hell of a lot about a company based on how they interact with journalists — yet virtually no one talks about the experience.

Then again, that’s probably because we assume readers are more interested in the tools themselves than the human stories behind them. Anyway, if you’re interested in some of those stories, read on. If not, scroll up or down where you’ll find plenty more pics of cool (or funny) tools and opportunities to weigh in on them.

So yeah, when I saw an email from someone “@festoolusa.com” this morning, I thought, “Awesome! They have something to say about the post!” When I open it, though, it was just three sentences: one telling me the price was “grossly inaccurate,” another giving me the current catalog price, and a third indicating the sender “would appreciate an email verifying that it has been corrected.” Sure, Festool doesn’t owe us anything at all in terms of interest, but contrast this to Bosch, for example, from which we regularly receive feedback. I can name five or six different engineers at Bosch whom I’ve met and heard pitch their ideas.

As I’m sure you’ve seen here and on other sites, Bosch holds yearly events in which they invite writers to their home office to show off their tools. Others do this as well, most notably DeWalt and Milwaukee, though others are getting in the swing of it, too. Besides giving everyone — even those of us who (despite our large readership) don’t have the budget of a massive print publication — an opportunity to see the tools in person with knowledgable folks on hand to explain the concepts, these events often say a lot about what the company is trying to do and why. Sometimes it’s positive, and sometimes it’s not.

Take DeWalt, for example. I remember years back attending DeWalt events where the engineers seemed to know surprisingly little about competing products. It was as if everyone there had imbibed the corporate Kool-Aid to the point where they were convinced each product was the end-all, be-all. Not so much recently. It’s not surprising to see all the new products they’re launching. In recent times the folks we talk to at the company seem acutely aware of their need to refresh. They’re hungry, and it shows in their work.

Bosch goes through similar cycles as well, sometimes convinced of their superiority, sometimes kicking ass to catch up. But one thing Bosch has always done well is communicate. We regularly receive emails from Bosch folks, some positive and some negative, but all friendly. Hell, despite the fact that we had a lot of fun at the expense of the “Joe the Pro” campaign — we’ve always maintained that a “we listen to you” campaign makes a lot more sense than a “we know what you want” campaign — Joe has been nothing but a good sport about it all. Bosch never once gave us a hard time about it, and Joe even comments on the site from time to time. (Hint: He’s actually a nice guy.)

Does this mean that I think all DeWalt or Bosch products are awesome? Nope. Let’s face it: Every company big enough to sell multi-nationally and fill your local big-box with all the SKUs they can handle is going to offer tools across the full spectrum of product quality, probably distributed in a normal curve. They’ll make a few superstars, a lot of pretty decent stuff, and a couple of turds. We know this, and they know this, too.

The bottom line for me is that after a number of years of interacting with tool companies, I’ve come to realize that the most positive vibe I can get from a tool company isn’t the greatest new idea or the slickest marketing piece — or the best wine-and-dine experience at a tool launch. Instead, it’s the feeling that they recognize their successes and their failures, that the individual engineers, designers, managers, and workers in the company want to make something great, and that they’re empowered to do so.

Despite talking to hundreds of thousands of readers, Toolmonger is a little bitty business. It has up times and down times. I like to think we’re pretty good at finding interesting tools to talk about here on the site, but we’re lousy at selling advertising, which means that sometimes Toolmonger brings in a bit of cash and often times we pay out of pocket to keep it running. We write about tools because we love writing about tools, and because we love reading what people have to say about tools. (We read TM comments just like you read the posts, BTW.)

So just a thought, Festool. If you’re reading Toolmonger internally, why not drop us a note sometime? Tell us we’re full of s*** if that’s what you think. (Readers do this all the time, and we appreciate it. Often they’re right and we learn from it.) Tell us that story about how you came up with the idea for that unusual switch or how you saw a contractor do the craziest thing with one of your products. Give us some idea who Festool is. We’d love to know.

 

30 Responses to A Few Thoughts About Tool Companies and PR

  1. Fong says:

    Nice insight Chuck,

    I have two correlary comments:

    Social Media: There are some companies I’ve dealt with who don’t know how social media works. They act more like net-cops lashing out at everyone with criticism, ignoring complaints of poor responsiveness and touting their product as better whenever they’re mentioned in a comparison. This is in no reflection of their products but poor tone online raises flags for me. Will their customer service dept have the same attitude? Is this the action of one person or an extension of the company’s perspective?

    Tool retailers: When choosing who to buy from, we often only focus on price and shipping. Those of us who’ve been burned a few times will also look at return policy. Me, I look at the entire shopping experience considering how a vendor deals with shipping damage, warranties or buyer’s remorse. Are they courteous, responsive and prompt? It’s one of the reasons I buy a lot of tools from Amazon.

    So Festool…I don’t yet own any of your tools, but I really want to. However, Chuck’s insight makes me want to stick with Bosch or Dewalt. You don’t ENGAGE with your customers or bloggers. Your twitter account @FestoolUSA has only 92 (all self-promoting) tweets. In your defense, Dewalt only has 492 and Bosch is nonexistent..but they do reach out in other ways as Chuck has described. You have an opportunity here. Don’t miss out.

  2. Bob A. says:

    The same rules that governed business a hundred years ago still apply today – you must design quality products, develop good relationships, and treat your customers well. It is nice to see that Bosch and DeWalt are doing more of that recently and I hope it continues. Social media and ad campaigns are great but if I pick up a tool and it breaks because of bad design or cheap production, all that other interaction feels like a big con job. Some companies today believe they can sell anything with good marketing but they should probably just put that money towards creating a better product, and maybe paying Americans to make it.

  3. shotdog says:

    I had a tinting question for Tite-Bond one night around 7 PM. Had a reply in about 10 minutes. That impressed me. sd

  4. Sawdust says:

    Agree with your perspective, and to reinforce it – based on price alone I tend to think of Festool as “aloof”. Just too expensive. I do extensive research on tool purchases, but haven’t ever considered Festool based on price alone. Maybe more engagement and awareness of what they do and what you get for the additional cost would change my perspective. Maybe not, but it can’t hurt!

  5. PD says:

    Well, I am an engineer at a tool manufacturer and I love(d) checking this site. I’ve submitted several tools to this site, both those that we’ve developed and stuff I stumble upon doing market and user research. As a developer I am interested in honest feedback so that I know what to improve in next version or even next batch. I’ve submitted only stuff that was innovative and unique yet nothing was ever acknowledged. Because you see, we DON’T market and sell our stuff in the US. We DON’T invite Chuck to yearly events, and we don’t pay for advertising here. This site is plastered with Bostitch ads – which is a StanleyB&D brand, who also happens to own DeWalt – and you will read about every single tool that comes out by those brands. As well as every $5 coupon at Lowe’s or Home Depot or whatever. This site has clearly turned to be about advertising and selling, and not a place that writes about interesting tools. Festool, as another non-american company that don’t have US as their primary market, perhaps see it the same way.

    • jesse says:

      Seems a bit harsh. Man up and say who you work for.

      • fred says:

        @Jesse

        I think we need to cut PD some slack on the issue of saying who he (or she) works for. Unless you are the sole proprietor of a business or have your remarks vetted by your company – what you say is personal opinion – separate and apart from your employer and fellow employees.
        We might also be fair to Toolmonger and others by recognizing that tool blogs – even the most independent-minded ones, may be informed by manufacturers who are interested enough to provide data, test samples etc. I also think that these forums try to reach a broad audience – with emphasis on more popular pro and consumer brands and tool types. So while I wouldn’t mind seeing an article or two about some new machinery I might be contemplating buying from companies like Felder or Marvel et. al. – I really don’t expect to see it here.

        • browndog77 says:

          If that is indeed the case, PD should know better than address the forum in the first person (read: We) It sounds alot like someone behind a curtain. As far as the ads, how else would TM cover costs? I have stumbled upon a few European blogs online and they have plenty of ads as well.

    • Jerry says:

      It somehow sounds more like someone who has bad feelings about a few companies. As someone said, tell us the company you work for! Most folks on here want to hear about all the tools, coupons and super deals that might be offered. Also, there is a lot of information on Toolmonger about new tools that are appearing on the market. Certainly, they are all not advertisers. Maybe whatever company you work for could offer products to the US someday if their employees pointed out the great products rather than slamming the forum that might offer the promos. “Good grief, Charlie Brown!”

    • Chris says:

      Lemme get this straight…you’re upset because Toolmonger, a site based in the US and primarily focused on the US tool market, didn’t acknowledge press-release-type e-mails your company sent them asking them to feature tools that, by your own admission, are something the vast majority of their readers can’t buy and might not even be interested in?

      Move along, nothing to see here. Just another anonymous jerk venting his spleen on the Internet.

      cl

      • PD says:

        Not quite. As Fred noted the opinions expressed are my own and not the company’s, so I won’t disclose which one it is. The tools were submitted anonymously and not as a press release, but rather an independent link and a “check this out”. So I was a bit surprised there was never any interest from TM, despite the tools being sold in US by private importers (enthusiasts), the brand has operated for 100+ years, and we dominate several markets with a number of our tools.

        So yeah, it’s not like I mind the ads, TM making money, or TM telling you about good deals. It’s just that this site over time changed focus on telling you about deals, and not about new cool tools. I mentioned that I didn’t only submit our stuff, but other innovative stuff by either inventors (craftsmen creating their own solutions) or startups, which wasn’t published either. That made me question how TM selects their content, and my conclusion is $$$.

        I am not here to sell anything. I come to this site to read your comments. Even frank comments like “gimmick” or “china made crap” actually helps me focus on what’s important to end consumer, and make a superior tool. Fact that they aren’t sold in US is not up to me, but it would have been interesting to hear your feedback, as I’m sure you would be interested in how craftsmen in EU get things done. Too bad TM didn’t feel it.

    • pHILIPPE ROSTIN says:

      Dont you just realize that the adds poping up are not this site bread and butter, they dont control the adds. The adds come automatically because of google or another carrier selling the space ! For an engineer your dumb (Wich does not surprise me, I never considered engineers as creative people)

  6. DaveVB says:

    What advertising? I have gotten to where I don’t see the ads, just read the left 2/3rds of the screen and pay no attention to the rest. I appreciate what I read here, and agree that customer satisfaction goes a long way in repeat sales. Because Bosch took a tool I dropped and fixed it for free, they get what little business I do. I am fighting right now to return to a lighting supplier who visits with me almost every week, versus the company my vice president likes because they went fishing together whom I never see. Communication sells.

  7. Toolfreak says:

    Although I will buy awesome products if they are all that, and a good value, I *do* look at the overall experience of doing business with a company when buying.

    How they interact with their customers and the public does influence my decision. Bosch, for example, is about as ideal as you can get when it comes to how they operate the overall business in terms of profit and where the money goes. They have plenty of flops, to be sure, and sometimes aren’t the best deal for the price, but they make quality stuff, have a good warranty, and I feel good buying Bosch because of all that combined.

    I *don’t* do business with companies that are all about PR and promoting their stuff as if it’s the best, when reviews say otherwise, the price is insane, and/or you wind up talking to a call center in India when you try to contact them.

    I suspect that toolmonger readers are among the picky bunch like me when it comes to tools, and are selective about what they spend their money on. I would definitely take a reviewers’ point of view on dealing with a company into account. This is how the market works, and the internet, too. When people and companies act stupid, calling them out on it and letting everyone know can have a big effect. Gone are the days when companies PR is the only thing that dictates how they are perceived.

  8. Brau says:

    I have no doubt that good social politics leads to warm fuzzies, the willingness to give a maker some slack, or view them as better than they are …

    … but I come here just to see the tools and hear somebody else’s experienced opinion on how well it works for the jobs they do. It’s the ONLY site where I read the article AND all the comments. That’s quite an achievement.

    Do I believe them? No … because I know everyone has their own bias on what a great tool is and does.

    I have been outspoken in the comments when I felt that some expensive brands (usually Bosch) were being overly lauded over far lesser costing alternatives (usually Craftsman). When I write my opinion, I do so not to oppose or anger, but to offer the next reader an alternate opinion or viewpoint they may not have considered; call it balance, if you want. I think it’s totally fair that the site owner likes Bosch tools, as long as he doesn’t censor people who disagree or see things differently.

    As for Festool, in the end it should be all about how the tool performs and not how it compares to other similar tools, the logo written on it, nor how nicely the tool company polishes their fan club.

    (I did enjoy this PR exposé piece, though)

  9. Keep up the good work TM.

    PS: I don’t think you’re full of s***… mostly ;)

  10. Gary Z says:

    I’ve worked in the tool retail world for many years and have seen tools and brands come and go. Marketing is a huge part of sales, because, people buy into the brand. Delta is a good example. Their quality has diminished in the past few years as they have been bought and sold several times. Yet with the lesser quality and the long lead time people still think it is the brand to buy. Festool does make some great tools. Their sanders and dust collection combine to make a very dust free performance. We have a Kapex at the store that is used daily, and all I can think each time I use it is that I would much rather be working with my DeWalt.
    As for vendor partnership with retailers DeWalt is very good. They update us on current and new products and listen to our feedback. Jet does well, and Freud is mildly OK. Festool, has not been in the store for at least two years and declined to participate in our last woodworking event. Price and poor service overshadows quality.
    So, this brings up the point of buying online instead of the local retailer. Yep sometimes you get a good deal online, until you have a problem. The local store will in most cases meet internet pricing, and if there is an issue will (in most cases) help you resolve the issue. We will also give you our opinion of tool performance. Most of us use what we sell and will pass the knowledge on.
    TM Keep giving us the straight scoop!

  11. Shopmonger says:

    I have to say as a long time ToolMonger reader and commenter I am still shocked at the ignorance that comes our way from SO called tool people. Tool Monger has never changed its tone, it still brings us new and exciting tool each week. Yes they bring us deals also, but always in different categories and different companies. And as I said in the previous post I have seen some Festool stuff, and it is very nice. However, when we look at economics it never makes sense, most of the time there is another tool that can do just as good with as many features for about half the cost. I teach Personal Finance and advanced Mathematics, and to show anyone an item that simply costs more and say ti is better is one of the reasons we have so much debt in all our countries. From the EU, to the US. Take a Land Rover for example, you can pay 45-60k for a LandRover…nice truck , shiny, and lots of features, but you can get more space, better gas mileage, the same transaxle design and a 100k mile warranty from a Hyundai Santa Fe. And the Santa Fe will last 80k longer, per statistical analysis. (I had to do research for a previous client) and after Festools Rather rude and UN-appreciative comments. I will now never buy any Festool. They don’t have their customers in mind, nor their target audience. It appears they simply want to make a fancy High-end tool. Which is sad to me, when we have companies like Leigh-Neilsen or other High end manufacturers that always keep the customer in mind.

    And yet people will defend Festool because of thier high status, not because of the Dollar Value of the tool itself.

    ShopMonger

  12. Vaskerville says:

    There is a considerable amount of overreaction here and some statements that are simply wrong or not fair.

    There is a huge amount of competition in this industry so the reporting should be more accurate. I can see the primary article in question definitely raising some blood pressure (which is why it also needed to be updated).

    As a US citizen living in Europe I do see a bias against Festool from time to time. The complaint always being similar to Apple – to expensive, not really that good, they think they are too cool, blah-blah.

    In Europe, I have always had the best support from Festool. I hope the day comes when they can offer the same in the US. Service and support are absolutely important, but even a little blog (as the author puts it) needs to be as fair as they can be in their reporting.

    Longtime TM fan…don’t plan to stop reading either. ;)

    • Gary Z says:

      I don’t think the bias is against Festool as a product as much as Festool not giving the support to their customers and their retailers who are buying and selling an expensive alternative to the mainstream tools.

  13. Vaskerville says:

    So, now this article is purely about Festool support of customers and retailers? What is the title of this post again?

    “and after Festools Rather rude and UN-appreciative comments I will now never buy any Festool. They don’t have their customers in mind, nor their target audience. It appears they simply want to make a fancy High-end tool”

    Totally overreacting. How was Festool, the company, in here doing that? You mean the individual who might work at the company who you want to hold responsible for way more than their weight?

    Hold yourself to a higher standard, I guess.

  14. Shopmonger says:

    It shows their primary concern, it was not about how they could help the readers be better educated, it was purely a reaction to what they perceived as bad press. They did not take the time nor effort to take into consideration the toolmonger readership, or the possible outlet to get some information out about their product. I response that said we are concerned with the possible oversight, and we would like to get you some information about our stuff, but for a initial contact……….that is poor form, and a lot of times you find out more about a company when they are in their raw form rather than when you meet them at some sort of industry forum, where they will always be on their best behavior….

    Again not knocking their tools specifically, we are talking about the company, direction and need.

    ShopMonger

  15. Trucker Joe says:

    Just my two cents. Personal I like the look of the Festool line, they look well made and designed. I would love to test drive their line. However, their prices scare the hell out of me.

    I think the point Chuck was trying to make is his desire the TM, the manufacturers and we the readers all have a dialog on the site. The email from Festool read more like it might have come from their legal department rather than their PR department. Since it was their first contact with TM, would not a letter saying how they appreciated the post, but would appreciate if the price as quoted be corrected have been a better option. To me it just read “fix it, or else.”

  16. Vaskerville says:

    Shopmonger, I’ve read a bunch of your comments around this site. You make alot of distasteful and kind of sad comments (like when you mention how bad the European economy is – they are all bad – but you follow it up with hahaha – are you an economist who has something to actually say on the matter?).

    I’d have to say you have a clear bias and an agenda.

    Festool could have been nicer in that email (I seriously doubt it was from their legal depart) but there seems to be alot of projection going on here.

  17. Shopmonger says:

    No I have no agenda, and yes I currently am teaching math and finance…..and some ASE stuff when I can….but time is limited when you have .little ones
    Nope. No agenda, yes I have some of my ideas on the economy, but I’m not going to say I have the ancestor, that is pure ignorance to think my way is the right way. but I do have a very good understanding of economics and its fundamental principals……consumerism is not widely understood ….that is why certain companies get away with things for a long time…..do some research into Saab and you will see what I mean.

  18. DEWALT says:

    Chuck, sorry we are little late to the game in responding to this post. We appreciate hearing your feedback, and we’ve shared this post internally with many of our product mangers. Our commitment to constantly improve on our products can only be achieved if we listen and communicate with our users, whether it’s the guy on the jobsite, or someone like you who puts a great deal of time into reviewing our tools. Thanks again for this post.

  19. A.Crush says:

    I just had an interesting experience, having been notified by ebay that they ended some of my listings for DeWALT tools I was selling because DeWALT themselves complained I was violating their intellectual property rights by listing the tools with the DeWALT logo visible.

    Of course, you can bet that I will never, ever buy another DeWALT tool again, and will let everyone who is considering buying one know about what happens when you try to sell your tools online.

    Stupidity like this says a lot more about a company and whether or not they are deserving of your business.

    DeWALT is no longer worthy of mine.

  20. pHILIPPE ROSTIN says:

    Festool looks very plastic to me, and I will never buy into them at that price range. All the guys we see on the net, and especially on youtube, using festools are snobish sob’s that just want to sell their plans, ideas, gimics, etc…. I use different brands of tools for different activities and I think mixing brands is the key to be unpartial !

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