2010-01-19_0934Dis­ap­pointed and uncon­vinced, I left their Web­site scratch­ing my head.

Seth Godin has linked to themSev­eral online mag­a­zines have fea­tured them, both in arti­cles and within sea­sonal wish/gift lists.   And, of course, they also have the audac­ity to call them­selves “Best Made Axe,” all of which made me eager to head over to their Web­site to read up on these (self-labeled) best made axes.

And while their Web­site (and mar­ket­ing in gen­eral) does some things incred­i­bly well – these guys are rou­tinely sell­ing out of their entire inven­tory of $200-$500 bespoke axes, after all – there are HUGE gap­ing holes in the site’s con­tent.  Here’s how their site fails the visitor:

1) No dis­cus­sion of the painstak­ing efforts to ensure top quality.

Look, I don’t want to be a jerk, but if you’re going to call your­self “Best Made,” it might be a good idea to sub­stan­ti­ate that claim on your site.  Tell me stuff like:

  • What kind of steel are you using for the axe head?
  • What kind of forg­ing process?
  • What kind of heat treatment?
  • What kind of fin­ish­ing process?
  • Who is doing the forging?
  • How are you attach­ing the axe head to the hick­ory handle?
  • What are the ergonom­ics of the handle?
  • What kind of extreme test­ing did you do to the fin­ished product?
  • How does the axe perform?
  • How does your axe com­pare to other axes?
  • In what ways is it actu­ally bet­ter made than these other axes?

The Best Made Axe site does none of that.  The most I get is the infor­ma­tion that the axe is hand-forged of “fine grain” steel.  Not nearly good enough – at least not when you want me to spend between 2X and 8X the price of a “darn good” axe in order to get your sup­pos­edly “best made” version.

2) No pic­tures of the man­u­fac­tur­ing process

2010-01-18_1747Don’t just tell me about the painstak­ing man­u­fac­tur­ing process, SHOW ME.  Lit­er­ally.  With pic­tures and video and stuff.  Show me the man­u­fac­tur­ing process and the abil­ity of the fin­ished prod­uct to out­per­form the competition.

The pic­ture on the left is a per­fect exam­ple of this.  Sad­dle­back Leather Co. man­u­fac­tures pre­mium, full-grain leather prod­ucts.  And they charge a pre­mium for them.  But their site goes into great detail regard­ing the supe­rior qual­ity and man­u­fac­ture of their goods — con­tent that’s fully illus­trated with zoom-able pho­tos and videos.

3) Not enough con­tent from or about users kick­ing ass with their AXES.

Where are the sto­ries of guys build­ing their own log cab­ins with a Best Made Axe.  Or how it has trans­formed a dreaded chore into an antic­i­pated plea­sure.  Or about how just hav­ing the axe hung on the wall of their office has trans­formed their out­look on things.  Or something!

The best I could come up with was to find Best Made Company’s fan page on Face­Book wich linked to a YouTube video of a guy open­ing a bot­tle with one of their axes.  Not sure how impressed I was sup­posed to be with that, really.

Com­pare Best Made Axe’s Site to Those of Other Pre­mium Products

Go ahead and com­pare the Best Made Axe site to other Web­sites for sim­i­lar top-end/upscale prod­ucts and see how much more thor­oughly these other Web­sites sell you on their prod­ucts’ quality:

Do you see how these other sites go into great detail about the design and man­u­fac­ture of their prod­ucts? How, almost on a point-by-point basis they explain WHY their prod­ucts are bet­ter, and about the ben­e­fits that you, the con­sumer, can expect from pur­chas­ing this higher qual­ity item.

Buyer Con­fi­dence and Buy­ing Rationalizations

While not every­one will click through all of the detailed infor­ma­tion pro­vided on these exam­ple sites, and even fewer peo­ple will read through all that infor­ma­tion, many peo­ple will scan through it, see that the qual­ity infor­ma­tion is there, that the pas­sion is there, and gain the con­fi­dence to make the purchase.

Let’s be hon­est, Best Made Axe wants to charge you between $250 and $500 for an axe.  You can pick up a Grans­fors Bruks (what is com­monly con­sid­ered the Rolls Royce of Axes) at roughly $70-$120 for most mod­els.  You can pick up a very highly regarded, Maine-made Snowe & Nealey axe for even less than that.

What’s the qual­ity dif­fer­ence between the Best Made and these other brands?  What am I get­ting for 2x to 8X the price?

Even when it’s not about the money, it’s ALWAYS about giv­ing prospec­tive cus­tomers some­thing to hang their hat on.   The Best Made Axe cer­tainly looks nicer than those other axes I men­tioned, but most peo­ple are loathe to admit that their money is going towards noth­ing more than sta­tus and brand name.  If you want them as cus­tomers, you need to give them some­thing they can hang their hat on, some other faux-reason they can use to ratio­nal­ize their pur­chase, like (notion­ally) bet­ter qual­ity, dura­bil­ity, and per­for­mance. Etc.

That’s what detailed qual­ity and man­u­fac­tur­ing infor­ma­tion con­tent on a web­site does: not only does it fan the desire for the prod­uct itself, but it pro­vides vis­i­tors with the jus­ti­fi­ca­tion they need to ratio­nal­ize the expense.  It also gives them the fire­power needed to explain their pur­chase to a spouse, sig­nif­i­cant other, co-worker or any other any-sayer.

So what about Your Website!

Is your site closer to Sad­dle­back Leather Co.’s, or is your site closer to Best Made Axe’s?

Maybe Best Made Axe just doesn’t really have the goods when you come right down to it.  Maybe they’re mum on the qual­ity thing for a rea­son.  Maybe it’s a “bet­ter to keep your mouth closed…” kind of thing.

Now, I’m not say­ing that’s the case, but you can see why a website’s con­spic­u­ous silence on the sub­ject invites that kind of speculation.

So if your prod­uct really does have the qual­ity edge, you’d be crim­i­nally neg­li­gent not to make your Web­site into the most elo­quent spokesper­son it can be con­cern­ing the supe­rior design, qual­ity, manufacture/delivery of your prod­uct or service.

Comments

  1. Beth Robinson on 01.19.2010

    Great exam­ple to pin the prin­ci­ples on, Jeff. You really cap­tured the con­cept and told the story well. I think you might have also inspired my next blog post, but I won’t know for sure until I’ve writ­ten it…
    .-= Beth Robinson´s last blog ..Man­u­fac­tur­ing B2B Exam­ples in Social Media =-.

  2. Nick Zdon on 01.19.2010

    I think you make some valid points. Although as an owner of two Best Made Co. axes, and as one of the Face­book fan­page admin­is­tra­tors (full dis­clo­sure), I feel I must raise a few of my own points.

    What started as a lim­ited num­ber of hand painted axes for a New York City bou­tique has, in less than a year, has become much larger than either of the own­ers had ever dreamed. In some­ways the rapid suc­cess has required that an enor­mous amount of atten­tion be focused on cre­at­ing the axes rather than the web­site. Not to offer that as an excuse for any lack of detailed and tech­ni­cal qual­ity con­tent on the site, but Best Made is a small com­pany started by peo­ple who love design and the out­doors as well as a small group of “brand enthu­si­asts” who share that same love, and resources are lim­ited now. There is still much more work to be done, not only in build­ing ‘qual­ity’ mes­sag­ing but in build­ing the brand as well.

    We’ve had requests from peo­ple for tes­ti­mo­ni­als regard­ing the qual­ity of the axes and it’s some­thing we’re try­ing to fos­ter on the Face­book fan­page. As an owner of two Best Made axes I can assure you that the qual­ity is top notch.

    The fact remains that despite your stated lack of con­tent on the Best Made Co. web­site the com­pany is becom­ing quite suc­cess­ful, in both the press cov­er­age and in axe sales. The sus­tain­abil­ity of that suc­cess in the web sites cur­rent state is yet to be deter­mined, but rest assured that changes are afoot. 2010 will see many new devel­op­ments in the world of Best Made Co.

    You also fail to men­tion the other con­tent on the site. The FAQ does a great job of posi­tion­ing both the axes and why a per­son would want to pur­chase one. It should be men­tioned that the axes are just the begin­ning. Also, the Face­book fan­page (which I’m sur­prised you don’t link to from your post) has become a nice lit­tle gath­er­ing place for own­ers as well as far peo­ple who may not own a Best Made axe, but just like the idea of Best Made Co. itself. Both myself and the other admin­is­tra­tor have also posted our sto­ries about why we believe in Best Made Co. so much that we’re will­ing to vol­un­teer our time to run­ning the fan­page (that’s right, we vol­un­teer our time. While I have a strong con­nec­tion to the com­pany and it’s founders I’m writ­ing now on my own behalf, not as an employee.)

    There may be siz­able gaps in some of the con­tent on the cur­rent Best Made site, but we’ve found a great deal of sup­port for the brand regard­less of this fact. We’ve found a great group of peo­ple who are very ready to believe in a com­pany that con­nects with them on a deep emo­tional level. Which is sup­port one rarely finds at all these days.

    Best,
    Nick Zdon

  3. Jeff on 01.19.2010

    Nick,

    Thank you so much for your thought­ful com­ments. As I stated in the open­ing to this arti­cle, “[Best Made Axe’s] Web­site (and mar­ket­ing in gen­eral) does some things incred­i­bly well.” Your fan page and obvi­ous com­mit­ment to and pas­sion for the brand are cer­tainly among those things that Best Made Com­pany is doing incred­i­bly well.

    What I found dis­tress­ing was the lack of sub­stan­ti­a­tion to the claim “Best Made.” Yes, Best Made is a new com­pany under­go­ing explo­sive growth. Yes, the FAQ and other parts of the site have some great copy­writ­ing on them. Yes, there are obvi­ously more than a few brand advo­cates out there who are incred­i­bly pleased with their Best Made Axes. But nowhere on the site is there any­thing that would explain to me why a Best Made Axe is a bet­ter axe than a Grans­fors Bruks or a Snow & Nealey Axe. both of which cost a frac­tion of the price and are already very well known for incred­i­ble quality.

    And, well, if the com­pany is going to have the won­der­ful audac­ity to call your­self Best Made (and Bravo for that, really), then I’d say a vis­i­tor might rea­son­ably expect them to sub­stan­ti­ate that claim on the Website.

    At the end of the day, all I’m say­ing is that includ­ing that kind of infor­ma­tion on the site would help a suc­cess­ful brand become even better.

    Since you vol­un­teer for the com­pany, let me ask you: have you owned any other axes besides Best Made? Have you owned any other pre­mium axes? Have you com­pared them? Would you, as the direc­tor of the fan page, be will­ing to host such a com­par­i­son? I think you’d be doing the brand a favor by doing so.

    - Jeff

  4. Nick Zdon on 01.19.2010

    Thanks for the very speedy reply Jeff,

    I’ll have to agree with you that the inclu­sion of such con­tent would be valu­able on some level. Although, Best Made has made a choice to focus on other aspects of own­ing one of their axes. A ‘bet­ter than brand X’ qual­ity com­par­i­son would put Best Made in a com­pet­i­tive tier that they hon­estly don’t fit into. I’d ven­ture to say that for many Best Made own­ers the qual­ity of the axe is an ancil­lary fac­tor when decid­ing to pur­chase one. I’ve found that for many own­ers, the deci­sion to buy a Best Made axe was a highly per­sonal deci­sion, moti­vated by every­thing from the love of the design object, to nos­tal­gia for the out­doors. I’ve described my own thoughts on the Best Made fan­page dis­cus­sion forum.

    As for my own axe-wielding expe­ri­ence, in a for­mer life I worked on a land­scape con­struc­tion crew which required the use of both many hand tools and heavy equip­ment. Usu­ally the life expectancy for a tool such as a felling axe (sim­i­lar in style to a Best Made axe), sledge­ham­mer, or even just a shovel is around 2–3 months. Often times the repeated use just wears them out. Han­dles splin­ter, metal breaks, etc. This causes many crews to pur­chase cheaper ‘dis­pos­able’ tools of the basic qual­ity you’d find at a hard­ware store. It’s safe to say that Best Made axes are far beyond this quality.

    As for a sim­i­lar ‘pre­mium axe’ I’ll say, quality-wise, Best Made exists in the same ech­e­lon as those you men­tioned (I’ve used Snow & Neal­ley axes before, although not Grans­fors Bruks) As for the higher price point, the added cost comes from the design and atten­tion given to fin­ish­ing the helves (han­dles). As this is done by hand, along with the con­struc­tion of cus­tom ship­ping cases, these axes demand a higher price point. How much is too much is a ques­tion left to those con­sid­er­ing pur­chas­ing one.

    Thanks again for the com­ments. Keep an eye out for 2010, there should be some great things com­ing down the pike.

    Best,
    Nick Zdon

  5. Jeff on 01.19.2010

    Well said, Nick. And thanks again for the response/comments.

    I will say this: from a design/aesthetic stand­point, Best Made Axe is with­out a doubt the most beau­ti­ful look­ing axe I’ve come across. If one were going to buy an axe for its sym­bolic aspects and pri­mar­ily for dis­play, Best Made Axe would prob­a­bly be the way to go.

    - Jeff

  6. Graeme Cameron on 01.19.2010

    As Co Founder of Best Made Com­pany and a life long axe­man I would love to com­ment on some­thing.
    We are not about putting our axes beside a Grans­fors or Tuatahi and say­ing “BMCo is bet­ter” and here is why. I love Grans­fors axes, infact I own sev­eral! Our prod­uct is extremely lim­ited in avail­abil­ity and some of our designs are even one off. That puts us in a very dif­fer­ent mar­ket than any other axe com­pany. I have actu­ally pushed poten­tial clients with very tech­ni­cal ques­tions in the direc­tion of Grans­fors. This has noth­ing to do with a lack of tech­ni­cal know how or knowl­edge, far from it. We just don’t believe that our prod­uct requires a heavy tech­ni­cal expla­na­tion for being as good as it is. It is far more than Steel and Hick­ory. Our cus­tomer base is gen­er­ally not inter­ested in grind angles on the bits or in hard­ness test­ing. They are inter­ested in becom­ing part of a com­pany that tells a story about a prod­uct, gains their trust by actu­ally acknowl­edg­ing them, offer­ing a unique expe­ri­ence through the pur­chase and in the end deliv­ers an out­stand­ing qual­ity axe. We are not inter­ested in being tech­ni­cal here — we are inter­ested in pro­vid­ing moti­va­tion to think about good cit­i­zen­ship. We are inter­ested in shar­ing our “Inspi­ra­tion” and watch­ing how it builds a “Tribe” of peo­ple — peo­ple with a com­mon thread.… and guess what… that thread is not the axe.
    There are gaps in our site for sure and we will con­tinue to fill them. Never did we com­pare our­selves to any other com­pany or brand… We are on our own and will con­tinue to forge ahead in the direc­tion that we choose. If peo­ple don’t like what we are doing that’s fine but if a few out there do like it then I would think we have reached some level of suc­cess. There is plenty to come from Best Made Com­pany and it will go way beyond the axe.
    You don’t have to own a BMCo axe to be part of it — you just need to under­stand 4 very impor­tant words.

    X

    Graeme

  7. Jeff on 01.19.2010

    Graeme,

    First of all, thanks so much for com­ment­ing. Sec­ond, I def­i­nitely get that your brand is about *more than* the tech­ni­cal excel­lence of the axe and I think your brand’s abil­ity to strike a res­o­nant chord with your tribe is admirable. So you have no argu­ment from me on those points.

    Where I think I’d (respect­fully) take issue with your com­ments is the “Never did we com­pare our­selves to any other com­pany or brand” part. I hate to get all Eng­lish Pro­fes­sor on you, but the “Best” in “Best Made” is, in fact, a superla­tive. To call your axe “Best Made” — and espe­cially to use the phrase “A Best Made axe is a best made axe” — is to com­pare your axe (favor­ably) to all other axes. And it may BE bet­ter made than all other axes. All I’m say­ing is that if that is actu­ally the case, I’d love to hear the story behind it on the Web­site. I think it would be a story worth telling.

    Respect­fully,
    – Jeff

  8. Dave Munson on 02.28.2010

    I thought i’d put my two cents worth in on this. Jeff, you are absolutely right. The word “Best made” means that all oth­ers are made of a lesser qual­ity. Now to my main thought.

    Graeme, I argued with my mar­ket­ing friend about my old web­site before he con­vinced me to rebuild it. I argued that I was sell­ing to a lot of peo­ple and that was proof that Sad­dle­back Leather’s web­site was just fine the way it was. He agreed that the cur­rent web­site was con­vert­ing traf­fic, but then asked me how many more folks I could con­vert if the web­site were even bet­ter. How many was I miss­ing that would have bought if they would have known the facts?

    The key thought that he won his argu­ment with was this; there are emo­tional buy­ers and there are log­i­cal buy­ers. I was (and you are) reach­ing only the emo­tional buyers.

    The emo­tional buy­ers want to belong to a tribe. They buy based on sto­ries and pic­tures and per­sua­sive copy. If they like you, they’ll buy from you. The facts are nice, but they don’t need them to make a deci­sion. They need a feeling.

    Then there are log­i­cal buy­ers. They want to know the facts. They want to know if this axe will make their work eas­ier and will it last. They want to know that they’re mak­ing a good deci­sion and won’t feel dumb later. No one wants to get took. How hard is the steel? What makes it bet­ter than a Wal­mart or Home Depot axe that has a hick­ory han­dle? Will the head fly off? Why won’t the han­dle crack eas­ily? Basi­cally, why is this axe the best?

    If you’re not will­ing to tell the facts, then you’re miss­ing out on a giant por­tion of sales from the log­i­cal buy­ers. I know this is fact because that’s what hap­pened with me. My old website’s front page had a cool pic­ture, a cool story and some funny ques­tions for the per­son to ask them­selves. On the new web­site, I made the qual­ity facts acces­si­ble in two places on my front page above the fold. My sales rose 30% the first day of the new web­site and my bounce rate low­ered about 15% imme­di­ately. Those stats have not wavered since.

    Trust me, you need to give the facts. Jeff prob­a­bly pays more in taxes each year than most peo­ple earn in two. And he makes it by writ­ing web­site copy that con­vert both log­i­cal and emo­tional buy­ers. He deals with bil­lion dol­lar com­pa­nies on a reg­u­lar basis doing this very thing. He’s the Rambo of web­site copy. You just got some extremely expen­sive con­sult­ing for free. It would be a shame if you didn’t do some­thing with it.

    If you truly don’t have the best made axes out there, I sug­gest you make that your aim. Sooner or later some hard­ness tests will be done by ax enthu­si­asts or by a com­peti­tor who doesn’t like being “sec­ond best” and their find­ings will make it onto some blogs and and onto your fan page and onto a few log­ger forums and you’ll lose it all. Seth Godin says that you must do busi­ness today as if you were doing it on a small island. Peo­ple talk and infor­ma­tion spreads fast on the inter­net. All some­one needs to do is google ” ‘best made ax’ review” and you’d be toast.

  9. Tim Auman on 07.02.2010

    The real kicker to me is that this guy does not make these best made axes, he merely buys a stan­dard axe from Snow & Neal­ley (http://snowandnealley.com) that retails for @ $60-$70 and paints the handle.

  10. Jeff on 07.02.2010

    Tim,

    Just wanted to empha­size that — absent some kind of leaked infor­ma­tion — no one knows for cer­tain who Best Made Axe is using to man­u­fac­ture their axe heads. They only say the axe heads are being made in Maine. So, while Snowe And Neal­ley is a pretty good guess, it’s not OK to accuse them of that with­out some kind of con­fir­ma­tion. All I was say­ing is that it appears that Snowe and Neal­ley make an axe of equal qual­ity to Best Made Co. for far less money.

    That said, I’m happy to keep the door open for them to explain how and why their axes are bet­ter, if, in fact, they are. The real point to the post is that, absent that kind of expla­na­tion, many prospec­tive cus­tomers will remain uncon­vinced. In other words, make sure you offer that kind of expla­na­tion and detail on your Web­site. The idea is to learn from the sit­u­a­tion, not to beat up on Best Made Co.

    - Jeff

  11. Christoper on 09.01.2010

    Jeff,

    I know you did not say that Best Made are S&N. You didn’t have to. Any­one with a lit­tle look­ing can see that. Their is only one axe maker in Main=S&N. Same head pat­tern, han­dle pat­tern, weights etc. Why else would the han­dle maker in TN. be send­ing han­dles with no stamp or fin­ish to ME. if they were not be used for Best Made?

  12. Chris G on 12.02.2010

    Jeff,

    Just came across this arti­cle after look­ing into the Best­Made CO axes. Well done. Lots of talk on the web­site, prod­uct descrip­tion about the han­dle. While impor­tant, for some­thing that uses axes a lot (for trail­work), han­dles break all the time. To me the most impor­tant thing is the ax head and ax bit. How well they keep an edge. I stick with Grans­fors over these. For the money, a much bet­ter axe.

    Chris

  13. Andrew on 12.14.2010

    i didnt read all of the com­ments above so i may be repost­ing info and ideas.

    from what i have gath­ered about what the best made ax peo­ple do is paint an axe pro­vided buy a com­pany in Maine witch unless there is some other com­pany i havent found yet then this com­pany would be Snow & Neal­ley witch have a won­der­ful his­tory but from what i have been told and read that is about all they have. i think they are on there third owner now and the axe heads are not made in this coun­try and i am pretty sure its not made in Swe­den. so maybe more like china? not that this art like axe should be used for work but i feel like they are no were near the best. Coun­cil Tool makes a fine all amer­i­can drop forged axe and if that was the com­pany they used it would be a bet­ter prod­uct. but all the axes i have seen from amer­i­can com­pa­nies are around 20 to 70 dollers and for the shape axe “the best made axe” sells its at best a 50 doller axe so i dont know what there logo and painted han­dle is worth to you but S.A.W. axe or a Grans­fors would be many times bet­ter in qual­ity and for sim­i­lar stiles of axes much much cheaper

  14. Steven on 04.06.2011

    So let me get this straight: Best Made takes Snow & Neal­ley axes, paints the han­dles, and sells them to met­ro­sex­u­als for an incred­i­ble markup? At one level, the PT Bar­num level, it’s GENIUS. On another, authen­tic peo­ple know this is all faux.

  15. Ryan on 06.18.2011

    Best Made axes are made by Coun­cil Tool. Best Made gives input on han­dle shape and pos­si­bly han­dle mate­r­ial. Coun­cil Tool makes great tools, and they are made 100% in the USA. Best made axes show off the art of the tool, which for a lot of folks makes for a great wall hanger. They aren’t, how­ever, any more use­ful for work than a stan­dard Coun­cil Tool Day­tona pat­tern axes or Hud­son Bay axes. Snow & Neal­ley use China-sources heads, which is sad.

  16. Jeff on 06.20.2011

    Ryan,

    Best Made Axe’s mar­ket­ing mate­r­ial specif­i­cally states that their axe heads are made in Maine and Coun­cil Tool man­u­fac­tures every­thing in North Car­olina, which kind of blows a hole in your theory.

    What Coun­cil Tools does illus­trate, how­ever, is the abil­ity to find equal or bet­ter qual­ity axes at a frac­tion of the price charged by Best Made. This alone is no big deal, except for the fact that Best Made has — by their very name — claimed supe­ri­or­ity over these other axes while utterly refus­ing to step up and prove it. I leave the door open to the pos­si­bil­ity that Best Made Axes are, in face, bet­ter made than the com­pe­ti­tion, and that’s the point to this arti­cle:
    if they really ARE bet­ter made, the com­pany web­site ought to go into how and why they are bet­ter made (or, heck, “best made”). But they don’t do that — leav­ing things open to all sorts of speculation.

    Again, Best Made Axe is doing a lot of things RIGHT with their mar­ket­ing, which is why they sell out of their pre­mium priced axes. And their axes ARE beau­ti­ful, mak­ing the extra fin­ish­ing, paint­ing and pre­sen­ta­tion worth the pre­mium to their cus­tomers. So this isn’t (or wasn’t intended to be) a “beat up on Best Made Axe” post. It’s a “what can we learn from this one hole in an oth­er­wise admirable mar­ket­ing plan” post.

    - Jeff

  17. Kyle Schwarz on 11.11.2011

    Hey Jeff,
    My friends an I are start­ing a bike com­pany where all the frames are hand built in California.

    After read­ing your arti­cle we will def­i­nitely have to shoot the MFG process, and go into fur­ther detail why our bikes are awesome!

    Thanks for the tips,
    Kyle

  18. palimpsestpete on 12.15.2011

    Lud­dites!

    All the real hep-cats have moved on to “Best Chain­saw Ever”. Sell­ing like hot­cakes in Park Slope.

  19. Scott on 12.20.2011

    Jeff–

    Thanks for high­light­ing the fact that there is vir­tu­ally no men­tion of how and why best made axes are indeed best made other than the fact that they have the best painted axes on the mar­ket. I’ll admit I’ve been intrigued by how the axes have been mar­keted, at least on the sur­face but I’m one of those peo­ple that not only appre­ci­ates the beauty of a tool but also wants to research the tech specs and know how the tool is actu­ally a top qual­ity tool. I have sev­eral very good qual­ity axes, some­thing like 12 in all, for all dif­fer­ent sorts of wood­cut­ting tasks. Sin­gle and dou­ble bit, felling axes and smaller job axes, large and small hatch­ets. Most are handed down from grand­fa­ther who used each one more than I ever will. I also have a Grans­fors which I pur­chased. All are kept very sharp, sanded and oiled han­dles and are impor­tantly used to chop wood. I was look­ing into the Best Made Axes but couldn’t find any details of how they are man­u­fac­tured or forged. If I remem­ber right I believe I read some­where on their web­site that they were hand-forged which I find dif­fi­cult to believe. As far as I know there are no com­mer­cially pro­duced Amere­ican made hand-forged axes. Coun­cil are drop forged, Snow are appar­ently from China and there’s no way they are hand forged if that’s the case. Ger­many makes some very good qual­ity drop forged axes as well but as far as I can tell the only ones mak­ing hand-forged axes com­mer­cially are the Swedes with Wet­ter­lings and Grans­fors. There’s a rea­son a hand forged axe cost a lot because they require a tremen­dous amount of skill (years of prac­tice) in order to cre­ate a top qual­ity prod­uct and they aren’t just popped out by plac­ing molten steel into a giant auto­mated ham­mer forge. There’s also things that can only be done by hand that can increase the hard­ness of the bit of the axe-head. Any­ways, thanks again for bring­ing up this topic, I wish Best Made would tell the story of how the axes are made not just the inspi­ra­tion of how cool axes are and how they are painted and how you can buy syrup and patches on their website.

  20. Jeff on 12.20.2011

    Scott,

    Thanks for the com­ment. It’s inter­est­ing because I was just on the Best Made Axe web­site and was pleas­antly sur­prised to find some improved con­tent around the qual­ity con­struc­tion that goes into their axes. I was also sur­prised to learn that their axe heads were no longer made in Maine, but are now sup­plied by Coun­cil Tools, an axe com­pany that still forges their axe heads right here in Amer­ica, and whose tools have an over­all excel­lent reputation.

    Of course, it’s easy to see that a reg­u­lar Coun­cil Tool axe costs between $50 — $80 while a Best Made Axe runs between $150–400, but it’s also clear that added fin­ish­ing, paint­ing, pack­ag­ing, etc. has been done to the axes.

    Still… that’s not the point. The point is that the Best Made Axe web­site has been made bet­ter and more con­vinc­ing by adding in some sub­stan­tive or fac­tual mate­r­ial regard­ing con­struc­tion, build qual­ity, etc. And that’s really the take­away small busi­ness own­ers and crafts­men can use for their own sites.

    - Jeff

  21. Nick on 12.20.2011

    Thanks for look­ing back into the site Jeff. Best Made axes are indeed made for us in part­ner­ship with Coun­cil tool. Just as a point of clar­i­fi­ca­tion, the Coun­cil axe com­pa­ra­ble to Best Made Co. is their Velvi­cut, which actu­ally retails for $169 from Coun­cil, a very com­pa­ra­ble price to Best Made’s $158 unpainted ver­sion. Best Made worked with Coun­cil to design this axe and both par­ties are very proud of it.

    Any small busi­ness owner knows that man­ag­ing the rela­tion­ship between their brand and their manufacturer’s always needs to be given care­ful con­sid­er­a­tion. We at Best Made make no excuses for how we’ve mar­keted our axes in the past, but it’s been an evo­lu­tion­ary process over the 2 years we’ve been in busi­ness. We’ve ramped up our edu­ca­tional con­tent, spec­i­fi­ca­tions, and made staffing changes.

    We’ve been active in hav­ing our prod­ucts reviewed and tested. We are also very respon­sive to cus­tomer ques­tions regard­ing all the prod­ucts we sell. I per­son­ally cor­re­spond with a num­ber of customers.

    We’ve been active in a num­ber of areas beyond our web­site as well. Our Projects blog has been a joy for us to expound on spe­cific prod­ucts and fea­tures in a way that may not fit into our web­site copy. We’ve also been active in the social media realm (Face­book, Twit­ter, and now Google+) all of which allow us to pro­vide con­tent and answer cus­tomer ques­tions. We’re also active on Blade­Fo­rum, one of the web’s largest online knife and tool mes­sage boards. All of these dif­fer­ent plat­forms allow us to com­mu­ni­cate dif­fer­ent infor­ma­tion to dif­fer­ent cus­tomer seg­ments who have dif­fer­ent needs. Our web­site can’t, and won’t, be the be all and end all for our mes­sag­ing, but we’re always look­ing to improve it.

    Best,
    Nick Zdon

  22. Jeff on 12.20.2011

    Wow, Nick, that’s awe­some! You guys rock. I love, love, love the fact that you worked with Coun­cil Tool to cre­ate an axe head to your spec­i­fi­ca­tions. That rocks. In fact, I think your com­ments and the recent changes deserve a new col­umn. Would you mind being inter­viewed for it?

  23. Scott on 12.20.2011

    I agree that it is indeed cool that Best Made has part­nered with Coun­cil to cre­ate an axe specif­i­cally for their needs. I don’t own a Coun­cil axe but I have read lots about them and from what I under­stand they do make a very good drop firged axe and their Velvi­cut line is even bet­ter since it has been worked by hand after the forg­ing process to work a very fine cut­ting edge to the bit of the axe. They actu­ally have a video online that shows some of how this is done. Glad to hear addi­tional info has been made avail­able about the Best Made axes. Best of luck with the con­tin­ued growth of their busi­ness with more info to come and more inter­est in a very won­der­ful tool.

  24. Brandon on 01.12.2012

    This much I can say: I spend a lot of time in the woods, and some of that time is spent felling, buck­ing and limb­ing. I also do some split­ting on my prop­erty. I have never met a per­son in the woods or on my road or in my town who was car­ry­ing, let along work­ing with, a Best Made axe. I doubt I ever will. I guess the web­site hasn’t reached a cer­tain audi­ence yet, namely, the audi­ence of peo­ple who use axes.

  25. Jeff on 01.13.2012

    Bran­don,

    Thanks for the com­ment. I’d just say that the fact that the typ­i­cal out­doors­man doesn’t com­monly carry a Best Made Axe really doesn’t mean too much. It’s a super-premium prod­uct and there­fore not the typ­i­cal. Most cow­boys don’t wear super-premium cow­boy boots — they wear much cheaper working-man’s boots. Most hunters don’t own $6,000 rifles either; you’re far more likely to see a guy car­ry­ing a 30–30 lever action than some super-high end claro-walnut-stocked, double-square-bridged mauser rifle with engrav­ing and every­thing. But that doesn’t mean the high end rifle isn’t worth the money, or won’t deliver an entirely dif­fer­ent shoot­ing expe­ri­ence. It’s just not worth the money to the aver­age hunter, nor was it ever intended to.

    The point I was ini­tially mak­ing with the col­umn, was sim­ply that there is likely a sig­nif­i­cant por­tion of Best Made Axe’s prospec­tive cus­tomers who would be look­ing for some sub­stan­ti­a­tion of the claim “Best Made,” and that they’d likely expect that sub­stan­ti­at­ing con­tent on their Web­site. And this goes for almost any pre­mium prod­uct, too, by the way, so it’s a les­son applic­a­ble to lots of my readers.

    At any rate, Best Made Axe re-sourced their axe heads and added exactly the kind of con­tent I was expect­ing to find when I first wrote this col­umn, so kudos to them! Expect a follow-up on this post to delve into exactly how they went about improv­ing this aspect of their already very-successful marketing.

    - Jeff

  26. Scott on 01.13.2012

    Well said Bran­don. I am no woods­man but I would call myself an amat­uer bushcrafter. I too have never seen any­one in the woods work­ing with the Best Made Axes. It’s fine to mar­ket the axes to a seg­ment of the pub­lic that wants to hang the axes on their wall. I have lots of axes; felling, dou­ble bit, boys axe, house axe, mauls, split­ters, and hatch­ets… They all get used. Axes are meant to be used.
    Another small obser­va­tion. It’s very odd to see some­one head­ing into the woods to fell a tree, chop wood, whater­ever, wear­ing tight jeans. One of the pics on the best made axe com­pany shows one of the guys wear­ing tight jeans…really? It’s like wear­ing shorts to a funeral

  27. Cooperhill on 04.20.2012

    Best Made axes are made by Coun­cil Tool. It’s nice that the brand is now sup­port­ing the only axes to be man­u­fac­tured in the USA. Snow & Neal­ley, sup­pli­ers of the pre­vi­ous incar­na­tion of BMC axes and cur­rently sup­pli­ers to Base Camp X (a sim­i­lar com­pany), are forged in China and “fin­ished in Maine and frankly, in my opin­ion, inferior.

    I have since pur­chased the BMC unfin­ished amer­i­can felling axe. I am a trail­worker and fully intend on using it in the woods. I have about 20 axes, most of which I have restored and hung myself. The BMC axe is very well bal­anced (i.e. it doesn’t tilt for­ward when you bal­ance it on your hand); the axe pro­file is very nar­row with a higher cen­ter­line which makes it great for chop­ping; the axe is hung expertly; and the axe han­dle has very good grain ori­en­ta­tion. The Coun­cil Veli­cut (aka BMC amer­i­can felling axe) stands up well against other axes.
    Cooperhill´s last blog post ..coop­er­hill: A gor­geous Spring day in Boston.

  28. Jeff on 04.20.2012

    Thanks for the Com­ments, Coop­er­hill. I fully agree with you on all points. Best Made has def­i­nitely won my respect for their efforts to bring the qual­ity specs up to speed with their marketing.

  29. miles on 01.05.2014

    Best made sucks as a com­pany imho they push out crap to the yuppy crowd who might use the axe one time. Ive had two of them now nei­ther one of them even com­pares to a grans­fors or any num­ber of the old amer­i­can made axes like kelly sager crafts­man among many oth­ers. They fall so short for actual use its pitiful.

  30. Jeff on 03.26.2014

    Miles, sorry for the late approval and reply to your com­ment. First, thanks for read­ing and for com­ment­ing. It’s my appre­ci­a­tion of both that led me to push the com­ment live after so much time.

    That said, and in gen­eral I usu­ally delete com­ments like this that only slam Best Made rather than com­ment­ing on their actual mar­ket­ing. Not because they are neg­a­tive but because they are effec­tively off-topic. The intent of the post is to look at Best Made’s mar­ket­ing (or their mar­ket­ing at the time of pub­li­ca­tion) and learn lessons that can be applied to YOUR mar­ket­ing and busi­ness, rather than to slam Best Made as a com­pany or directly crit­i­cize their prod­ucts. From what I can cur­rently dis­cern they have improved the qual­ity of their axes since this post was first pub­lished and their peo­ple have always been a plea­sure to deal with.

    In other words, after see­ing how Best Made has evolved and after cor­re­spond­ing with some of them, I’d con­sider buy­ing one of their axes if I was in the mar­ket for such a thing. Are there still “more axe for the money” alter­na­tives out there? I’m pos­i­tive there are. Does that make Best Made a bad prod­uct? Not in my opin­ion. It’s a big mar­ket­place, there’s room for niche prod­ucts, and Best Made fills their niche, nicely. And maybe that niche IS to serve a “yuppy” mar­ket that cares about appear­ance as much as (or more than) per­for­mance (though they might beg to dif­fer on that). Even if that’s the case, it’s not actu­ally a bad thing. It might clash with your val­ues, but those val­ues aren’t uni­ver­sal, and you don’t have to buy their axes. Aint the free mar­ket grand?

    Now, get­ting back to mar­ket­ing, the cool thing is to see how hav­ing a bet­ter prod­uct lets Best Made Com­pany have bet­ter prod­uct descrip­tions that delve into the meth­ods of man­u­fac­ture, qual­ity of steel, specs, design, etc. In other words, they are not get­ting into every­thing that I ini­tially rec­om­mended that they get into in terms of sub­stan­ti­at­ing their qual­ity. I think it’s a big improve­ment in their online copy.

    Any­way, thanks again for read­ing the post and commenting.

    - Jeff

  31. Max Shelley on 04.18.2014

    Inter­est­ing con­ver­sa­tion. Here’s a visual com­ment on marketing:

    https://vimeo.com/80278488

  32. joseph on 07.20.2014

    What’s bril­liant about Best Made, is that they fig­ured out a way to sell axes to peo­ple that don’t need axes. They cre­ated a value added prod­uct that peo­ple sim­ply want. Maybe these peo­ple are sim­ply co-opting a lifestyle that they long for, or enjoy­ing some nos­tal­gia but in the end, that’s up to them.
    I am an axe guy, and I wouldn’t want to pay dou­ble for a Coun­cil Tool on a pretty han­dle, but that’s ok, i am not their demo­graphic. They are the A & F of out­door gear and if a hip­ster wants to hang an axe on his wall and call it art, then more power to him.
    After revis­it­ing the web­site I see they added some tech­ni­cal info which is great but I would bet that the major­ity of these axes never see the out­doors.
    Great arti­cle by the way, I just dis­cov­ered your site and really enjoy it.
    joseph

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