Saturday, April 26, 2008

Lessons to learn from BlockBuster

First, a bit of background. December 31, 2007. I buy my last computer. This is my third laptop in 4 1/2 years.

First one I bought from Gateway when they had a store in town, in 2003. Gateway was a name I was familiar with as other family members bought from them over the years.

When the Gateway laptop had problems 11 months later, I shopped around. Best Buy, Circuit City, Office Depot, Office Max, Staples, I visited them all. Bought a Toshiba from Circuit City. 10 months later it was having screen problems, but under warranty, so I went back to Circuit City and bought my third laptop and gave them my Toshiba for warranty repair. I hated the Acer laptop I bought that day. So when my Toshiba came back, I transfered all my stuff back to the Toshiba.

A year later, now out of warranty, the screen on the Toshiba is going out again. I don't want to buy another computer so I finally transfer my stuff to the Acer back up laptop I hate, and then discover why I hated it again, only it's worse because now it is slow and crashes without warning.

Between Christmas and New Years I visit Office Depot, Circuit City and Best Buy multiple times because I have to buy a computer again with money I don't want to spend, so I do a lot of research.

But what really stuck me was the difference in the three stores. Office Depot was okay, looking the same as always; Best Buy was bright and shiny and busy; and Circiut City, the store that I bought two previous computers from looked bad, really, really bad.

Circuit City's computer displays were incomplete, not hooked up, messy, with poor lighting and the staff was not very helpful at all. I had a gut feeling about them, that they were in trouble.

So I went back to Best Buy and quizzed them and questioned them and bought a 3 year warranty, so if this computer has problems, I don't need to buy a new one, (and they have an in-house service department for my laptop), and I'm happy.

As a consumer I saw the decline in Circuit City. So why did Blockbuster buy them? I've wondered about that on occasion, and that is part of what Laura Ries asked in her recent column on Blockbuster. Read it and Learn:

Now playing: Blockbuster Bombs Big


Once upon a time Blockbuster Video was the quintessential success story. A company and a brand that was admired, feared and emulated. With its great name and focused strategy Blockbuster quickly swept the nation via growth and acquisitions to become American’s place to rent movies.

This fairly tale doesn’t end well. Today, Blockbuster is in shambles. Bad decisions, bad strategies and bad management have left the giant gasping for air. Where did it all go wrong? Let’s take a look and find out.

In the beginning things were great.

Great branding and rapid expansion made Blockbuster the world’s largest video rental chain with more than 7,800 stores in more than 20 countries (about 60% of which are in the US). Each year Blockbuster rents more than 1 billion movies and games. Impressive to say the least.

The brains behind Blockbuster was David Cook. In 1985, he created the brand known as Blockbuster by combining a flashy look, a great name and a computerized rental system. Entrepreneur Wayne Huizenga was the money behind Blockbuster.

In 1987, Huizenga took over Blockbuster and injected $18 million into the company. He set out to become the first national brand in the emerging video rental category and the category leader in the mind. In just three years, Blockbuster went from 130 stores to 1,500 stores. In addition, Blockbuster went global. With the purchase of Cityvision, Blockbuster became the largest video renter in the UK in 1992.

The beginning of the end.

Success can sometimes lead to arrogance. And arrogance in this case meant believing you can sell anything, putting your name on everything and being oblivious to the future. Several bad moves sealed Blockbuster's fate.

Bad move #1: Don’t line-extend into businesses you have no business being in.
Blockbuster Music

Feeling quite full of itself Blockbuster launched Blockbuster Music in 1992 by purchasing of the Sound Warehouse and Music Plus chains.

First of all, Blockbuster means movies not music. Second of all, Blockbuster means rentals not sales. Third of all, talk about getting into the wrong business at the wrong time. Retail music chains are a thing of the past. iTunes, Amazon and Wal-Mart are putting them all out of business.

Bad move #2: Be wary of huge corporations taking over your brand.
Viacom takes over Blockbuster and renames the division Blockbuster Entertainment Group.

Big companies have a lot of advantages including lots of money and distribution might. But unfortunately they usually have no marketing sense. Viacom looked at Blockbuster as an opportunity to expand the business into other “entertainment” areas. Bad move.

Corporate ownership isn’t always bad, but when it undermines your marketing strategy and your brand’s authenticity, it can be deadly. For example, Quaker Oats almost killed Snapple. But PepsiCo has done very well with Gatorade.

Bad move #3: Expanding into everything is a killer.
Blockbuster promotes itself as a “Neighborhood Entertainment Center”

Blockbuster greatly expanded the offerings in its stores to make itself a so-called entertainment center. They started selling videotapes (instead of renting them), selling books, CDs, gift items and music.

Consumers don’t use words like “entertainment center.” They rent movies and buy music and watch movies. Blockbuster had a strong and formidable brand in the movie-rental business. Blockbuster’s expansion into other types of entertainment undermines that. They should be saying “Don’t read or listen to music alone, watch a movie with your honey or family tonight.” And they should also be saying “it’s silly to buy a movie you only watch once.”

An attempt to regain its footing

Just when you might have thought all was lost at Blockbuster, the company did make one heroic comeback attempt. In 1997, Blockbuster refocused on movies and returned to its rental roots.

In one of the most brilliant business moves ever, they negotiated with the movie studios and forced them into a revenue-sharing agreement that replaced the standard practice of buying rental copies for as much as $120 each. This move allowed Blockbuster to stock all the latest movies in depth. It also lowered their costs, giving Blockbuster a huge competitive advantage.

Bad move #4: Giving up the future to be greedy in the present.
The DVD takes over and Blockbuster misses the boat.

One thing is for certain, the future will be different than the past, especially when it comes to electronics. In music, there was vinyl, then 8-tracks, then tapes, then CDs and now MP3s. In video, there was Betamax, then VHS and now DVD. Tomorrow it will probably be BluRay and in another ten years something else. Nothing lasts forever.

Blockbuster had a lock on the VHS rental market. With its revenue-sharing agreement, the movie studios received 40% of rental revenues. The formula was such a big success that everybody was happy. A rental window ensured a period of time where a movie was only available for rent before it was available for purchase. And the purchase price was high enough to promote Blockbuster’s highly profitable rental system.

But 1998 was the dawn of the DVD age. And a new technology meant a new agreement between Blockbuster and the studios. The facts are hard to find, but from press reports you can surmise that Blockbuster got greedy and wanted to keep more revenue for itself. Reportedly saying things like “The studios can’t live without a video rental business – we (Blockbuster) are your profit.”

Since rentals represented a $10 billion business for the studios, it was an important market, but today the VHS business is practically $0. Without a new agreement and system for DVDs, the future would be tough for Blockbuster. Too bad they didn’t know back then what they know now.

Warner & Sony which had sunk millions into DVDs didn’t want them to be the new laserdisc but the next VHS. So without a deal with Blockbuster, they moved to plan B. They basically knocked out the rental window and priced DVDs low enough so that they could be sold in competition with rentals. With Blockbuster’s outrageous late fee system, paying $20 to buy a movie could be a lot cheaper than renting it and bringing it back a few days late.

Bad move #5: Getting stuck in the mushy middle
Today Blockbuster is stuck in the mushy middle between Wal-Mart and Netflix.

Turns out people love to buy cheap DVDs. I have a whole closet of DVDs, most of which I haven’t even watched yet and probably never will. I see the case and say, “Gee always wanted to see that movie!” I buy it and then never have the time or patience to watch it. Then there is my closet full of kids’ DVDs. Those are the ones that get watched so many times that the DVDs wear out and I have to buy replacement ones. (All I can say is thank you to Volvo for selling cars with DVD players. Anything to keep two little boys quiet in the car is worth the price.)

By 2003, the studios were taking in three times as much money from DVDs as they were from VHS videos. DVD was the new king and Wal-Mart was the new queen beating out Blockbuster to become the new, single, largest source of revenue for the studios. Making things even worse for Blockbuster is the fact that mass retailers of all types began selling newly-released DVDs below wholesale costs to draw in customers with the hope of selling higher profit TVs and other electronics.

Add to all this, the arrival of Netflix. Like Amazon, Netflix used the internet to offer access to a wealth of titles (100,000 plus) which it delivers and you return via the old-fashioned postal service. A slow process indeed, but with no late fees, no due dates, no postage fees, endless variety and a personal movie queue, it is a system that is a killer. With its most popular plan, Netflix charges a monthly fee which gets you three DVDs at a time with no monthly limit. Simple, clever and cool.

Blockbuster is in the mushy middle. With cheap DVDs selling like hot cakes at Wal-Mart and easy rentals mailing out like crazy at Netflix, Blockbuster has nothing left to sell but its locations. Locations that are costing them an arm and a leg in leases.

Bad move #5: Merging with a loser
Blockbuster trying to take over Circuit City is insane.

Two losers don’t make a winner. Just look at the mess a combination of Sears and Kmart has created. A merger with Circuit City would result in two brands in two different businesses with two sets of problems to deal with.

The last thing Blockbuster needs is more real estate. And the last thing Blockbuster needs is Circuit City, a miserable brand getting clobbered by Best Buy.

In this epic movie, I’m afraid there is no happy ending. If only Blockbuster could go back and rewrite history, maybe things would have been different. But life is not like a movie. Once the scene is shot, there are no retakes.

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Friday, April 25, 2008

Does this make me look fat?

The joke continues, "no, it's not the clothes that make you look fat, it's your body!"

Not funny, yet there is a way to be honest and have class and salesmanship all wrapped up in one.

Jackie Huba at The Church of the Customer Blog wrote this:

Mickey Drexler knows me

Posted: 23 Apr 2008 09:39 AM CDT

Does this dress make my hips look big?

It was a question for which I needed an honest answer this weekend as I shopped at J. Crew. My salesperson complied.

"Yes, it does," she said. She smartly suggested another, more flattering dress instead. Thank you. I appreciated the honest advice.

Long-time readers of the Church probably know I love J. Crew, which continues to impress me with its turnaround from an average retailer into a dynamic store. CEO Mickey Drexler is clearly driven by a fanatical mission to understand what his customers want. He spends part of almost every day visiting stores. He talks with employees asking what is selling and what isn't. He chats up customers for feedback and comments.

Yesterday, a salesperson offered me a chilled bottled water as I entered the dressing room, something usually reserved for higher-end boutiques. My salesperson was highly attentive and she (and her colleagues) gave me great advice on what looked good and what didn't.

One thing Drexler must have learned from his chats with customers is an offer I received shortly after my store visit: a J. Crew personal shopper. I can schedule an appointment before and after the store is closed. Wow. Exactly what I want!


By listening to customers (not just once, but continually), J. Crew has learned that some of us who aren't afraid to part with our cash want someone to help style us and do it on our schedule. No wonder J. Crew is enjoying a 14% increase in revenue (from 2006-2007) while other retailers are floundering or simply closing stores in the face of a recession.

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Location, location, location

Your location is part of your marketing.

Especially, (but not exclusively), if you are a retailer and you need foot traffic. One day I'll write about a formula for determining how to figure the cost of your location as it relates to the rest of your advertising/marketing budget.

But for now, I'm going to point you to a common sense approach that you can do this week, to see whether or not the location you've been eyeing is as good an investment as the agent is trying to convince you it is.

(By the way, the above picture is an artists rendering of Jefferson Pointe, an outdoor mall located right here in Fort Wayne, Indiana!)

Tim Knox:

This week we discuss how to find the best location for your business. This isn’t a difficult process, but will require some homework on your part. You can use a commercial realtor to help you scout for locations, but the real research you must do yourself.

When I was scouting locations for my brick and mortar store I took the time to drive around town to familiarize myself with every foot of vacant retail space available.

I spent a lot of time sitting in parking lots. You can learn a lot just watching cars go by at different times of the day. For example a location may be great in the morning, but lousy in the afternoon. Or maybe the parking lot is full at lunch, but empty the rest of the day.

You should also consider which side of the road works best for you. For example a drive thru coffee shop has a much better chance of success if it’s located on the side of the road with the morning rush hour traffic, while a takeout joint has a better chance of success if it’s located on the side of the road with the going home traffic.

Read the rest of the article here.

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3 Ways to Ruin your Credibility

We shouldn't have to talk about this. But we will anyway.


Because there are temptations to embellish, to lie, to hide the truth, everyday.

But in this speedy internet world of ours, when you deceive, it won't be weeks or months before the real truth comes out. It can happen in days, even hours. We've seen it with the political campaign, and it can happen with your marketing campaign.

Read this from

The Truth Will Out

When you start to see how effective word-of-mouth marketing can be, you might feel the temptation to juice it up in little ways. Maybe you notice that no one in your online forum seems to be chatting about your fantastic customer service—what's the harm in an anonymous comment on the topic that praises a new policy? But Andy Sernovitz wants to remind you that actions like these are not only unethical, they teeter on the edge of a slippery slope that can lead to more devious—and sometimes illegal—actions like:

  • Using your in-house staff or hiring an agency to post phony recommendations and comments on a systematic basis.
  • Getting buzzers to hype your product or service even though they've never used it.
  • Asking your fans to disguise their involvement in a campaign.

According to Sernovitz, determining how to handle any word-of-mouth marketing situation comes down to three basic principles spelled out by WOMMA's ethics code:

  • Honesty of Relationship: You say who you're speaking for
  • Honesty of Opinion: You say what you believe
  • Honesty of Identity: You never obscure your identity

Says Sernovitz, "The truth is that word of mouth is based on truth, that liars will always be exposed, and honest companies will be richly rewarded by adoring fans." And that's a helpful bit of Marketing Inspiration.

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Sorry Mom

According to these 3 separate reports from, we're spending less for Mothers Day next month. One reason could be worries about money. But it looks like Walmart, the "Mother of Discount Retailers" is having a good year:

Mother’s Day Gift Spending: This Year, Less is More… Common

Some 84% of US consumers will celebrate Mother’s Day, most will scale back the number of gifts and instead purchase one major gift, and they will spend $138.63 ($0.51 less than last year) on average, according to the National Retail Federation.

“Mom has been saying for decades that it’s the thought that counts on Mother’s Day, and this year kids might actually be listening,” said NRF President and CEO Tracy Mullin. “Retailers will offer specials on popular items such as digital cameras and gardening tools to make it easy for those who want to surprise mom with a gift.”

Total consumer spending for Mother’s Day is expected to reach $15.8 billion, according to NRF’s survey on Mother’s Day consumer intentions and actions, conducted by BIGresearch.

The study finds that consumers will spend…

  • $3.0 billion on special dinners or brunch
  • $2.0 billion on flowers
  • $1.6 billion on gift cards/gift certificates
  • $1.4 on clothing and accessories
  • $1.2 billion on consumer electronics like digital cameras, digital photo frames and video cameras
  • $1.1 billion on personal service gifts like a trip to a favorite spa or salon
  • $696 million on housewares and gardening tools
  • $672 million on greeting cards

What Issues Matter Most to Women - Growing Financial Pressures on Family Life

Women and their families are experiencing tremendous financial woes - on issues ranging from housing to credit card debt to healthcare - and are concerned about their long-term financial security, according to a Meredith Corporation/NBC Universal survey.

The nationwide “What do Women Want?” survey of 3,000 women covered a wide range of topics important to women, including marriage and family, health and fitness, safety, and financial matters.


Wal-Mart Sitting Pretty on Top of Fortune 500 List

Wal-Mart Stores posted 2007 revenues of $378.8 billion (up 7.9% from 2006) and profits of $12.7 billion, making it yet again the No. 1 corporation in the Fortune 500, Fortune announced.

Wal-Mart is also the biggest employer, employing more people (2 million) than the US armed forces (1.4 million).


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Food Fun with KFC?

I've discussed KFC before, regarding what their name and slogan should be. Not gonna do that today. Instead here's the story from Mediapost about the latest KFC marketing campaign:

KFC Embeds 'Secret Image' In TV Ads, POP Posters
by Nina M. Lentini, Friday, Apr 25, 2008 5:00 AM ET
screengrab KFC is at it again. The fast food restaurant with a history of getting consumers to slow down and take a closer look at its ads is launching a new way to engage them.

In national TV spots and in-store POP posters promoting its KFC Snacker, the company has embedded a "secret" image. Each day until May 3, the first 1,000 of those who spot the dol ... er, image and go to will get a $1 KFC gift check which may be used toward the purchase of a 99-cent Snacker (tax may be extra).

So much does the company want people to win Snacker coupons, it gives them the following to choose from when entering the contest online: The Colonel; KFC Bucket; Four Quarters; Dollar Bill; State of Kentucky.

In the :30 spot, a trio of young adults discusses the value of a dollar and how it can buy a KFC Snacker. The Snacker is a chicken breast strip with lettuce served on a sesame seed bun that comes in four versions, including BBQ, Honey BBQ and Ultimate Cheese.

"We are an innovative, fun brand," spokesperson Rick Maynard tells Marketing Daily. "We like to engage with our customers and get them involved in our promotions."

KFC is spreading word of the promotion by emailing its Colonel's Club, which has nearly 1 million members, Maynard says, and at

The effort is directed at new customers as well as at fans, he says. "KFC is a dinner brand, and the Snacker line is a lunch item. We want to give people a reason to have lunch at KFC."

Previous campaigns, since early 2006, include KFC becoming the first brand to have a logo visible from space, freeze-frame ads that prevented viewers from fast-forwarding with DVR technology, ads embedded with high-pitched ring-tone technology and KFC aroma placement in the halls of corporate America.

Nina M. Lentini edits Marketing Daily. Email her at

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Did BK go too Far?

When I hear the words Iron Man, First thing that pops in my head is the opening to the Black Sabbath song, blaring out of my cheap stereo speakers from my teen years.

Next, I think of a marathon endurance contest of some sort. I don't think of Burger King. And apparently, there are parents that don't want their kids to think of Iron Man (The Movie) when eating their BK kids meals. Mediapost fills us in:

Group Asks Burger King To Pull 'Iron Man' Kids' Meal Toy
by Laurie Sullivan
[Restaurant] Paramount made the agreement with Burger King, and the film industry should be held equally responsible, says the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood's Josh Golin. "I don't think we should allow corporations to make [parenting] more difficult and confusing," he says. "If 'Iron Man' isn't a movie for 3-year-olds, asking companies not to market to them doesn't seem unreasonable." - Read the whole story...

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The 2008 American Consumer Preview part 9

Note: Even though we are nearly done with the first 4 months of 2008, I'm sticking with the title, The 2008 American Consumer Preview, since this is still information about consumer habits for this year.

To see the first 8 Previews, click here.

Gas Prices approached $3.70 locally, this week before dropping slightly.

News this week included rice rationing by some retailers, food prices continue to climb, and today the morning news was that the tax stimulus checks are going out earlier than previously announced.

What effect are rising gas prices having on consumers spending habits? Take a look:

How Gas Prices Affect Shopping Habits

Oct Apr +/-
Eat out less often 38% 53% +15
Carpool or find
alternative means
of transportation
10% 15% +5
Delay purchase
of new home
5% 10% +5
Less shopping
of non-essential
retail items
42% 65% +23
Purchase fewer media
entertainment items
33% 48% +15
Will not change any
spending habits
43% 22% -21

Source: Kelley Blue Book Marketing Research Gas Prices and Shopping Habits - Trending Over Time

Consumers Cut Back On Everything But Driving, Study Finds
by Aaron Baar
[Trends] "Gas prices are already affecting vehicle sales in every segment, and traditional sport utility vehicles have been especially hard hit," says Kelley Blue Book's Jack Nerad. "Other industries will feel the pinch as consumers cut out life's little luxuries like clothes, eating out and entertainment just so they can pay the fuel bills." - Read the whole story...

And what about the "rich"? (That's Paris Hilton pumping her own in the picture.)

Even The Rich Feel Pinched, Await New Presidential Leadership
by Sarah Mahoney
[Retail] What that means for marketers is that these consumers are going to be more resistant to luxury messages. While 41% of luxury consumers say they expect to spend less on luxury in the next twelve months, only 13% expect to spend more. And 71% say the overall financial health of the country is worse now than it was three months ago. - Read the whole story...

These stories are from MediaPost.

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All 50 Networking tips

It's the end of the 10th week of sharing with you a-tip-a-day from the Nametag guy. So, here are the previous 49 tips, plus a new one for today. Contact info for the Nametag guy is at the end.

50 Networking Thoughts Everyone Should Read

By Scott Ginsberg

The Federal Bureau of Labor published a study a few years back that showed 70% of all new business comes from some form of networking. What other motivation do you need to start?

Below are fifty thoughts to help you on your way. Before you read on, remember: if you think you're poor at networking, don't worry, you're not alone. It's not a skill we are born with but one we have to learn.

1. Come to every networking event with three great questions ready to go. Be sure they begin with, "What's the one thing?" "What's your favorite?" and "What was the best part about?"

2. No matter where you go – the mall, church, out to dinner, the gym - have at least five business cards with you.

3. Be able to give an unforgettable personal introduction in 10 seconds, 30 seconds and 60 seconds.

4. When someone on the phone says, "May I ask who's calling?" get excited. Say something unique that makes that person say, "Um, okay...please hold." Be unexpected. Be cool. Be memorable.

5. Get Google alerts on yourself, your company, your area of expertise and your competition. If you don't know what a Google alert is, just Google it.

6. Networking isn't selling, marketing or cold calling. It's the development and maintenance of mutually valuable relationships. Don't mix these things up.

7. The most important four letters in the word "networking" are w-o-r-k, because that's exactly what it takes.

8. If you give your business card to somebody and they don't reply, "Hey, cool card!" get a new card.

9. When attending networking events, come early. Check out the nametags. See if you know anybody, or find people you'd like to meet.

10. Sit in the back so you can scan the room for specific people you'd like to connect with.

11. Email articles of interest, links or other cool stuff of value, (not spam), to people you've met.

12. Publish a newsletter or ezine. Interview people from your network and feature them as experts. They will take ownership of their inclusion and spread that publication to everyone they know.

13. Spend one hour a week reading and commenting on other people's blogs. If you don't know what a blog is, you're in trouble.

14. When you read an article you like, email the author. Tell him what you liked about it and introduce yourself. He'll usually write back.

15. Have an awesome email signature that gives people a reason to click over to your website. Just be careful not to have too much information included.

16. Get involved with social networking sites like LinkdIn, MySpace and Squidoo.

17. Remember that networking doesn't have to be in person. The Internet is a great place to connect with people just like you! It's called Internetworking. (Yep, I made that word up.)

18. Make your own words up. It's really fun.

19. Have business lunches at least once a week.

20. Attend local events once a month.

21. Figure out where your target market hangs out (online and offline). Then hang out there.

22. Create your own regular "business hangout," like a copy or coffee shop where you can regularly be found working, networking, reading or connecting with other professionals.

23. Talk to everybody. Don't sell them; don't probe them, just make friends. Make friends with everybody. Because people buy people first.

24. Take volunteer positions with organizations that are relevant to your industry. Be a visible leader to whom others can come to for help.

25. Every time you meet someone, write the letters H-I-C-H on their business card: how I can help. Then think of five ways to do so.

26. Go to Borders and spend one day a month reading books on networking, interpersonal communication and marketing. I highly recommend The Power of Approachability and How to be That Guy. (I hear the author is super cool.)

27. Publish articles or a blog or both based around your expertise. Use titles such as "Top Ten Ways," "Essential Elements" and "Success Secrets," that grab the reader's attention. Publish them on and

28. Be funny, but don't tell jokes.

29. Discover the CPI (Common Point of Interest) with everyone you meet.

30. Carry blank business cards with you in case someone forgot theirs. They'll thank you.

31. Never leave the house without a pen and paper. Sounds dumb, right? It isn't. It's genius. Nobody keeps napkins with scribblings on them.

32. Every week, introduce two people you know who need to know each other.

33. Wear your nametag above your breastbone and make sure it's visible from 10 feet away. Nobody cares what side of your chest it's on. Just make it big. And if you don't like wearing nametags, then you probably don't like people knowing who you are, either.

34. It's not who you know – it's who knows you.

35. People will like you the minute they figure out how they are like you.

36. Fear not to entertain strangers for by so doing some may have entertained angels unaware. (Hebrews, 13:2)

37. If you don't have, get it. It's ten bucks.

38. Find local professionals with whom you share common interests, customers, ideas and products. Introduce yourself to them, get together, share ideas and find ways to help each other.

39. Form a mastermind group. No more than four people. Meet regularly to set goals, keep each other accountable and brainstorm.

40. Also, set your own networking goals each month for:

  • Events to attend
  • People to meet
  • Emails to write
  • Calls to make
  • Articles/physical mail to send

41. Go onto Google and type in "articles on networking." Read on!

42. Speaking of Google, Google yourself regularly. Find out what people are saying about you. If you don't show up, you're in trouble.

43. If you think you don't need to network, you are right. You don't need to network: you must network!

44. Stop calling it networking. Ignore the title of this article. Networking Рas a word Рis tired and old and clich̩ and it makes people think you're throwing around a bunch of cards trying to sell, sell, sell. No. All you're doing is making friends. Not schmoozing, mingling or any of those stupid catch phrases. You're making friends. That's it. Friends. Make them every day.

45. If you think you are poor at networking, don't worry. You're not alone. But also remember that anyone can develop their networking skills. That's right, skills. Because it's not something you're born with or just plain "good at." Anyone can do it effectively. You simply need:

  • To develop the attitude of approachability
  • To read books on the subject
  • To practice

46. When strangers ask, "How are you?" don't say fine. You're not fine. Nobody's fine. Give a real answer that's memorable and magnetic. I suggest, "Business is kicking ass!" or "Everything is beautiful!"

47. When someone asks where you're from, don't just say "Austin." Use the H.O.T technique: "Oh, I'm from Austin, home of the best college football team in the country." Get creative. Get unique. Watch what happens.

48. Put your person before your profession. Your personality before your position. Your individual before your industry.

49. Don't be different – be unique. Don't be friendly – be approachable. And don't be memorable – be unforgettable.

50. Think about the last five "luckiest" business contacts you encountered. Figure out what you did right, realize that there is no such thing as luck, then repeat as often as possible.

Scott Ginsberg, aka "The Nametag Guy," is the author of seven books and writes the #39th most popular marketing blog in the world. He is the creator of NametagTV, an Online Training Network that teaches businesspeople about approachability. For more info about books, speeches, customized online training programs or to Rent Scott's Brain, call 314/256-1800 or email

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Thursday, April 24, 2008

Back up your Claims

One Marketing Strategy that almost Always works:

Be Honest.

This was Earth Week with Earth Day on April 22.

The Environment is now a political issue.

One way to create good will and positive feelings about your business is to team up with a worthy cause.

But remember, Be Honest.

Click on the charts to make them bigger as you read this green report from

Consumers Recall Green Ads, but Often Skeptical of Them

Consumer recall of advertising with “green” messaging is high - more than one-third of consumers (37.1%) say they frequently recall green messaging and another third say they recall it occasionally (33.1%), according to a new Burst Media survey.

The online survey, conducted in April 2008 with more than 6,000 web users 18 years or older, explores how consumers are incorporating green or environmentally friendly services and products into their daily life, and their perception of green claims made by advertisers.

Among the key findings:

  • Consumers do not automatically accept green claims made in advertisements:
    • One in five respondents (22.7%) say they seldom or never believe green claims made in advertisements.
    • Two-thirds (65.3%) of respondents say they “sometimes” believe green claims made in advertisements.
    • 12.1% say they “always” believe green advertising claims.


  • Skeptical consumers want to be able to investigate claims, and many do:
    • 41.6% of consumers frequently or occasionally research the claims made in green advertisements.
    • Just 30.1% refraining from any research.
  • Four out of five (79.6%) respondents say they use the internet to conduct personal research on green initiatives and products.
  • Many respondents find corporate information on green and environmentally safe products and services lacking: 41.6% rate corporate information as average, 20.8% rate the information as fair, 17.2% rate it poor.

The Burst survey also revealed some characteristics of green consumers:

  • Green is a goal of many, but attained by few:
    • More than four out of five (81.9%) respondents have incorporated some level of green activity into their lives - just 12.9% are “not green at all.”
    • Although most respondents have integrated green activity into their daily lives, few (5.2%) are “completely green.”
    • In fact, most respondents are “aspirationally green” - a plurality (43.9%) incorporate a few things that are green into their daily lives but “have a long way to go,” and another 38.0% attempt to be “as green as possible, but not 100%.”


  • Reasons for pursuing green activities are varied:
    • The motivators to go green are many, but respondents most frequently (53.3%) cite “good for the environment” as the reason they include green behavior in their daily lives.
    • Other reasons for going green include to impact the future (41.5%), to live a better quality of life (34.1%), good for the community (32.5%), desire to make a difference (31.2%), desire for a healthy body (29.8%), and desire to live simply and use less (29.2%).
    • Three out of five respondents who are “aspirationally green” cite “good for the environment” as a reason for going green - clearly the leader among all reasons offered.
    • However, among the “completely green” segment the top reason for going green is “to live a better quality of life,” followed by “good for the environment.”
  • Disparate Green topics motivate online research:
    • Consumers research many green topics: The most popular online green content is recycling information and healthy recipes.
    • Those are followed by information on alternative energy sources, natural remedies, eco-friendly cleaning products, green technologies, nature/outdoor recreation, tips for simple living, gardening/organic gardening, and organic foods.

“Businesses that can support their claims in their green messaging and sustainability topics in a way that incorporates the consumers in the conversation are at an advantage in the marketplace,” said Jarvis Coffin, CEO of Burst Media. “In providing information that is accessible, transparent and easy for consumers to share, businesses have the opportunity to reach consumers in relation to a core personal value.”

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Turn your head and Cough

That's one thing Google won't ask you to do if you are looking for health info.

From, comes this data (Click on the charts to make them bigger):

Top 20 Health Conditions Researched Online - and Top 15 Prescription Brands

“Pregnancy” and “cancer” are at the two most frequently searched health conditions, at 8.8 million and 7.7 million search queries, respectively - and smoking-cessation treatment Chantix topped the list of frequently searched brand drugs, according to comScore.

Common health conditions such as diabetes, depression, and flu were in the top 20 but generate fewer searches than cancer and pregnancy, comScore found.

“A reason for this may be due to life-changing nature of a cancer diagnosis or a pregnancy,” said Carolina Petrini, comScore SVP. “When facing a serious illness like cancer or after becoming pregnant or considering pregnancy, consumers often turn to the internet to search for information and educate themselves in a private setting.”

Top 20 Most Commonly Searched Health Conditions


Conditions relating to relate to sexual or reproductive health (e.g., herpes, HIV, HPV, menopause and pregnancy) made up fully one-quarter of the top 20 list, as individuals appreciate the anonymity of the internet when searching for information about highly personal conditions.

Top 15 Searched Prescription Brands

People are likely to seek information about depression medication on the internet, comScore found. One-third of the top 15 commonly searched prescription brands are treatments for depression (Cymbalta, Effexor, Lexapro, Prozac, and Paxil).


In February 2008…

  • Pfizer’s Chantix, a smoking cessation treatment, generated 500,000 search queries.
  • Adderall (an ADHD treatment) and Viagra (an erectile-dysfunction treatment) followed closely behind at No. 2 and No. 3, respectively.
  • The twentieth-highest search term was Pfizer’s Lyrica (a treatment for Fibromyalgia) due to its recent approval and subsequent brand marketing, which helped to raise awareness of the condition.

There is little or no correlation between a condition’s prevalence and its search popularity, comScore noted:

  • People in the US who have diabetes outnumber those who have cancer by several million*, yet there were just 1.8 million search queries for “diabetes” - four times less than the number of searches for “cancer.”
  • Approximately four million women a year give birth in the US, as reported by the American Pregnancy Association, but ten times that number (40 million) suffer from high cholesterol, as reported by the American Heart Association. “Cholesterol,” however, garnered less than one million searches, far less than “pregnancy.”

*According to data from the American Diabetes Association and the National Institute of Health.

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Three Free Marketing Keys

I've got 3 of them for you.

And it will cost you nothing to do them.

But it could cost you EVERYTHING if you don't do them.

Click here to get 'em.

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10 ways to WOW'em

I wish I wrote this.

But since this is a Collective Wisdom site, dedicated to Marketing, Advertising, and the Creative Process, I enjoy passing along the wisdom of others.

And the folks at Small Fuel are full of it. (Wisdom!)

SmallFuel Marketing Blog

Link to SmallFuel Marketing Blog

10 Clever Ways To Wow Your Clients

Posted: 24 Apr 2008 04:24 PM CDT

impressed business womanA happy client is a pleasure to have, but an ecstatic one is even better. When you go above-and-beyond to wow your clients, they can become a wellspring of repeat business. They’ll refer new customers to you, and publicly reinforce your reputation to others over and over again.

But how do you turn an ordinary client into a raving fan? All it takes is a little understanding of their wants and needs – and some creative strategies for exceeding their expectations. Here are 10 ways to create raving fan customers who give the word-of-mouth marketing that your business needs to succeed.

#1 – Customize Your Approach To Their Problems

customize lego blocksLearn as much as you can about what has been preventing your clients from getting the results they want in the past, and customize your marketing approach to highlight how you are the perfect solution. Instead of a typical “here are our services” pitch, present yourself in a way that will make them take notice and say “This is exactly what we’ve been looking for!”

#2 - Create A Guide That Positions You As An Authority

definitive authority guide bookBeing seen as an authority is a powerful way to deliver the “wow-factor” to your clients that increases their desire to stay loyal to you (as well as the amount of business they bring your way). Creating a companion guide to your products or services is an excellent way to showcase your experience and to establish your position as a company who is on the leading edge. Add an extra layer of exclusivity by offering it only to current clients – just one more perk of doing business with you.

#3 - Master The Art Of Accessibility

be accessible phoneOne of the easiest ways to consistently impress your clients is to keep turnaround time on emails an phone calls to a minimum. In today’s world of poor customer service, having a swift response rate to client inquiries is a powerful way to keep them impressed and away from the competition. A quick tip on email – even if you can’t address a client’s needs immediately, reply to them and let them know you’ll get back to them soon. Reinforcing their feeling of being valued gives them another reason to be a customer for life.

#4 - Anticipate Their Future Needs

Your clients have a specific idea of where they want their business to go, but they may not be seeing all the options they have available to them. Talk with them and get a feel for how they plan to grow their business, and offer them advice or services that will make it easier for them to grow. Then connect them with the people who can help make those things happen. Open their eyes to ways they can make their business or their offerings stronger down the road, and they won’t forget how valuable it is to keep doing business with you.

#5 - Offer A Workshop That Gives Your Clients An Edge

A workshop to give clients the edgeHome improvement stores offer free do-it-yourself workshops to give customers a reason to shop at their store. Financial planners offer free investment seminars to educate clients on additional service options. Your business could do the same. Look at what it is that you sell, and consider the knowledge gaps your clients might have when it comes to choosing options or getting the most out of what they buy. Then offer a free workshop that closes the knowledge gap, and see just how much more your clients appreciate you.

#6 - Ask For Feedback After The Sale

chat bubbles of feedbackThey typical business follows up only when they have something to sell, but you can wow your clients by following up with a request to make their last transaction more satisfying. A simple phone call or email that follows up with the question “Is there anything we missed, or anything more we could do to make your experience better?” tells your clients that you are 110% committed to making sure they are treated fairly and respectfully – and that you’re not going to settle for letting them get anything less than the best from you.

#7 - Present Everything In Terms Of Value, Not Cost

chart to present in terms of valueIf pre-sales marketing is all about presenting benefits, current-client marketing is all about presenting value. Each time you communicate with your clients, let them know what they are getting and how it benefits them. A client who receives “new logo samples,” for instance, is not going to be as impressed as a client who receives a package of “3 logo concepts shown in multiple layouts with original source files for editing.” Make sure your client understands just how much they are getting with each deliverable, and they will feel their money is well spent.

#8 - Reward Client Loyalty With Increasing Bonuses

reward client loyalty with presentsKeeping clients long-term saves you the time and money of hunting down new ones, so why not pass some of that savings on to them? Offering clients some sort of bonus or discount periodically, just for sticking with you, is a sure way to impress – especially if the value of that reward keeps increasing. Whether you choose to give a discount that grows each year, or you throw in a free product or service here and there, these unsolicited gifts will make your clients hard-pressed to go elsewhere.

#9 - Give Your Clients Free Publicity

give your clients some free publicityIt’s not uncommon to feature your clients’ success on your own website to enhance your reputation, but have you considered boosting their reputation elsewhere? Consider working them to issue an online press release that showcases their company or have an article written up and submitted to a relevant publication or website. This “out of the blue” shot of publicity won’t cost you much, but will make the client remember you for life – and in many of their referral-generating conversations as well.

#10 – Under-Promise and Over-Deliver – Every Time

exceed client expectations and deliver moreThe surest way to lock a permanent “wow” into your customer’s mind is simply to exceed their expectations, every time. Don’t over-promise – be realistic and focused when telling them what you’ll deliver and when they should expect it. Then go the extra mile to make your deliverable impressive and on time (or better yet, early). This is simply the easiest way to secure your reputation – the very currency of marketing itself – and virtually guarantee a stream of revenue from your current clients, and the clients they refer to you in the future.

Every great brand carries with it a number of features that give it a marketable “wow factor” – that impression of excellence, commitment and quality that invites clients to pull up a chair and stay forever. To make your brand great, incorporate these strategies into your everyday marketing plans and share your additional tips in the comments below. You’ve got what it takes to “wow” your clients every day – it’s time to get to it!

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Local Leadership Role Filled

Ten years ago, I returned to Fort Wayne, Indiana as the Program Director for WGL 1250, a news/talk radio station, owned by Kovas Broadcasting.

I left after several months and then returned to the building under new ownership (Travis Broadcasting) in 2003.

About a year later, our investors, brought in Kristine Foate and we changed the name to Summit City Radio. Kris was with us for a couple years.

This week she is in the news and spotlight once again. Congratulations Kris. This is from the Fort Wayne Chamber of Commerce Blog:

Fort Wayne Chamber Announces Kristine Foate as New President / CEO

Fort Wayne, Ind. -The Board of Directors of the Fort Wayne Chamber of Commerce has announced that Ms. Kristine G. Foate will be the new President/CEO of the organization, effective May 15, 2008. The Board is pleased to welcome Ms. Foate to the Chamber after a thorough six-month selection process.

"This is a pivotal time in the Chamber's legacy and the Board has full confidence that Kristine Foate is exactly the right person to lead us into the next chapter," according to Don Schenkel, Chairman of the Chamber's Board of Directors. "With her impressive credentials and demonstrated community involvement, she will provide the inspired leadership that our organization needs."

Ms. Foate is an award winning professional with more than 20 years of leadership experience in radio, television and publishing. Most recently, she has held positions as President and CEO of Summit City Radio Group, Senior Vice President of Operations for Pinpoint Publishing and Director of Marketing and Development for the YMCA of Greater Fort Wayne. In 2004, 2005 and 2006, she was named Radio Ink's 50 Most Influential Women in Radio. Kris was also recognized as an ATHENA Award® nominee in 2006.

Kris takes her responsibility to the community seriously. She is active in United Way of Allen County and is a member of the Rotary Club of Fort Wayne. Kris also serves on numerous boards including Leadership Fort Wayne, Artlink, and Erin's House and is the Chair of Invent Tomorrow. She is a graduate of the Leadership Fort Wayne class of 2006 and holds a B.S. in Economics from the University of Illinois and a Juris Doctor from the University of Wisconsin. "Kris Foate knows our people and organizations, has experienced the challenges we face and believes in the possibilities for our community. She is committed both to the bottom line and to the common good," adds Don Schenkel.

"After moving to Fort Wayne in 2004, I quickly developed a passion for this community," commented Kris. "I am thrilled to live and work in Northeast Indiana and look forward to building upon the great efforts of all those associated with the Fort Wayne Chamber of Commerce."

For more on the reaction to this news, click here.

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Websites, Advertising and News

How do you get people to visit your website?

You have to first give them a reason to visit your website.

Then you should make it valuable to them to visit.
You can do this buy offering content, or contests. The first works better.

Google is a wonderful tool for finding stuff on the internet, if you know what words to type.

Yahoo, MSN, AOL, don't really matter. (AOL's search is "enhanced" by Google!)

Some advertising mediums are quickly becoming obsolete. I'm thinking of the phone book for example. With the rise in cell phone, the decline in land lines and the growth of the internet, you really don't need a phone book anymore.

Another advertising medium that has slowly been less relevant is the traditional local newspaper. Actually the national papers are needing to make changes to remain in business too.

With staffing cutbacks due to less income, it is going to be more challenging to find true journalism and journalists like we had 40 years ago during the heyday of Radio, Television and Newspaper reporting.

Here's a story on websites that gives some additional perspective on this topic:

Lost In Translation
by Kory Kredit , Thursday, April 24, 2008

What is the value of an established print media name? Let's take a simple test to find out. Which of these URLs do you recognize?





For those of you who claim to recognize the first two, you are either lying, or you have lived in both Iowa and Arizona, as I have. While both the Des Moines Register and the East Valley Tribune are print newspaper companies that have been in existence for decades, you've probably never heard of them or visited their Web site unless you live in those metropolitan areas. Even if you do live in those regions, the chance that you've never visited one of these sites increases as your age bracket skews younger.

Ask any college-age or 20something man or woman where they get their news/information/gossip, and he or she is increasingly likely to cite a pure-play Internet site like,, a favorite news aggregation site or RSS feeds before listing a local print media outlet.

While national newspapers like The New York Times, Washington Post, and USA Today are growing, local newspaper sites are loosing market share to pure-play Internet sites like Google, Yahoo, AOL, and MSN, as well as aggregation sites like and, as reported in a 2007 study from The Shorenstein Center at Harvard University.

This raises a perplexing question for local newspapers, which are more and more reliant on their Web sites for advertising revenue to either supplement or replace decreasing revenues from their offline product. Does a traditional media brand name (i.e. Seattle Times, Kansas City Star, etc.) provide significant value to an online audience, or does its value get lost in translation somewhere between the printed word and the 19" flat-screen you're currently staring at?

As circulation rates and ad revenues drop across the board in the newspaper industry (ad revenues in 2007 plunged 9.4% to $42 billion compared to 2006), the brand recognition of the local newspaper drops along with it. It has also proven increasingly ineffective to try to apply the traditional offline business model to an online news site.

Gone are the days when the local newspaper was the self-appointed guardian and exclusive voice of news and information for the masses. In traditional media, the journalist and the media outlet handed down the news to the public and that was typically where the story ended, with the exception of the filtered and approved-for-print Letter to the Editor that might follow in a day or two.

In the Internet age, news is now a "shared enterprise between its producer and its consumer, according to Jonah Peretti, founding partner of The Huffington Post. To be successful, Internet news and media require an ongoing conversation, multiple methods of engagement, the addition of user-generated content and a wide variety of opinions and views.

Today's savvy online consumers also want control over what they read. They want to customize their entire experience for their personal preference. Not only do they want to choose the stories that are relevant to them, they want to modify the layout of the site and the navigation to suit their needs, as they can on sites like, and

In an effort to recapture some of their local readers on the Web, newspapers might consider abandoning their traditional print brand online, reinventing an entirely new media brand for the Web. This allows a great deal of autonomy to operate -- much the same as an Internet company, not a newspaper company with a Web site.

The challenge that lies ahead is whether or not traditional newspaper companies can become agile enough to adapt to this new paradigm. Can they leverage their most important asset, which is their depth of news and information at the local level, and deliver it in a way that engages and interacts with readers, giving them more control over the experience?

Simply relying on their offline brand recognition to draw readers to their Web site will prove to be a losing strategy as readers continue to gravitate towards pure-play Internet sites that cater to the preference of an ever-savvier online audience.

Can newspapers adapt quickly enough to remain relevant -- or are they doomed to become this century's version of the telegraph machine?

Kory Kredit is director of marketing at AdOn Network.
(c) 2008 MediaPost Communications, 1140 Broadway, 4th Floor, New York, NY 10001

Online Publishing Insider for Thursday, April 24, 2008:

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Blogging about Blogging

Got a very busy day today, lot's of meetings with great people and will post more later. In the meantime, Here's some wisdom about Blogging:

Baby Steps to Blogging Superstardom

In a recent post at his blog, Seth Godin explains how you can use a blogger's sensibility to improve your other writing—from ad copy to thank-you notes. But the post also serves up some solid ideas for improving your blog itself. Here are a few of his key points:

A blog post is not a PhD dissertation. "Bloggers don't have to say everything at once," says Godin. "We can add a new idea every day, piling on a thesis over time." Take a look at his blog's archive and you'll see what he means. Entries range from brief notations to lengthy discussions, but—taken as a whole—each continues to develop his central themes.

People like lists. How often do you see magazine cover lines and online headlines trumpeting, say, The Top 25 Reasons You Need to [Fill In the Blank]? They're fun, and almost certain to drive traffic to your blog.

No one likes an online dead-end. Go ahead and link to other sites, even if it's a hyperlink in the middle of a paragraph. If you have interesting content, you haven't lost your readers forever—they'll come back for more.

Social media is about conversation. Writes Godin, "Your readers care about someone's opinion even more than yours…their own. So reading your email or your comments or your trackbacks (your choice) makes it easy to stay relevant."

The Po!nt: Since the blog format enables you to make continual improvements, it's never too late to integrate solid new ideas.

Source: Seth Godin's Blog. Click here for the post.

By the way, I know that this works. If you search for Starbucks advertising in Google right now, there are at least 2 of my posts on the first page. Currently #1 & #2

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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Google # 1?

Who would have guessed?

This is for all you brand-heads that like to keep score, from my email this week, sent to me by

BrandZ Top 100: Google Beats Coca-Cola, GE, Microsoft for Top Brand Honors

Google again topped the list of the annual BrandZ Ranking issued by Millward Brown’s Optimor, which identified (pdf) the world’s most powerful brands as measured by their dollar value. Google’s brand is valued at $86.1 billion - up 30% from last year.

Google is followed by General Electric at $71.4 billion and Microsoft at $70.8 billion:


The biggest risers in the ranking include Apple at $30 billion, with the biggest dollar increase in the Top 100 list, and BlackBerry, which entered the BrandZ Ranking at number 51 with brand-value growth of 390%.

Brands are becoming ever more valuable and powerful in driving business growth, Millward Brown claimed, saying companies that own brands in the BrandZ Top 100 have significantly outperformed the stock market (S&P 500).

The combined value of all brands in the BrandZ Top 100 increased 21% from $1.6 trillion in 2007 to $1.94 trillion in 2008, more than double the increase the previous year, according to the rankings.

Notable trends emerging from this year’s BrandZ Ranking:

1. Established Asia vs. Emerging Asia

Seven brands in this year’s Top 100 come from mature Asian economies: Japan, Korea, and Hong Kong. Their aggregate brand value increased only 7% in the last year (to $111 billion).

In contrast, the value of the four Chinese brands that made this year’s BrandZ Top 100 increased by 51% (to $124 billion). China Mobile, Bank of China, China Construction Bank and ICBC are just starting to expand beyond China so they have considerable potential for growth.

2. Continued Rise of the BRICs

Emerging markets play a key role in driving growth for international brands, for example Apple and Gucci. The new BrandZ Ranking shows that domestic brands from emerging economies are gaining momentum.

Chinese brands performed strongly and Russian-based mobile operator MTS entered the ranking at number 89. MTS, with a brand value of $8.1 billion, is the first Russian brand to make the Top 100 list.

Other BRIC brands to watch in future brand rankings include Lukoil, Beeline, and Baltika from Russia, ICICI from India, as well as Brahma, Petrobras, and Bradesco from Brazil.

3. Technology Boom

The technology sector (including mobile operators), which accounted for 28 of the top 100 brands, outperformed all other categories in this year’s BrandZ Ranking, with a brand value growth of $187.5 billion. This is more than half of the Top 100’s total increase.

The complete BrandZ Ranking report with category and regional breakdowns as well as additional analysis is available at and

About the data: The BrandZ Ranking is based on primary research and reflects the perceptions of those who are actually brand users and consumers. Derived from WPP’s BrandZ database of brand equity data, the BrandZ study has interviewed more than one million consumers globally and covers 50,000 brands worldwide. The BrandZ Ranking is the first to cover both business and consumer brands and to include predictive metrics of future brand performance. Market performance metrics and financial data were obtained from Datamonitor and Bloomberg, respectively.

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Dealing with Complaints

Earlier today I wrote about how your customers will talk behind your back when you screw up, and it can spread all over the internet faster than a celebrity sex tape.

But what about the customer that talks directly to you about how you didn't meet their expectations?

Seth Godin address that with a personal story on his blog this week. I'll repost it here but first, I want to challenge you. Click here for the Challenge.

Here's Seth:

You're right!

You probably get feedback from customers. Sometimes you even get letters.

Occasionally (unfortunately), it’s negative.

Two weeks ago, I left my car at (an expensive) parking garage in midtown New York. When I got back four hours later, I discovered that they had left the engine running the entire time. That, combined with the $30 fee and the nasty attitude of the attendant led me to write a letter to the management company.

The response: it was my fault. When I dropped off the car, I should have taught the attendant how to turn off my Prius.

What’s the point of a letter like that? Why bother taking the time? It’s not even worth the stamp. Does the writer expect me to say, “Oh, great point! Sorry to have bothered you. I’m an idiot! In fact, I'm so stupid, I'll go out of my way to park there again next time...”

It’s pretty simple. The only productive response to a critical letter or piece of a feedback from a customer is, “You’re right...”

You’re right, I can see that you are annoyed.
You’re right, that is frustrating.
You’re right, with the expectations you had, it’s totally understandable to feel the way you do.
You’re right, and we’re really sorry that you feel that way.

Every one of these statements is true, each one is something you are willing to put into writing. It validates the writer, thanks them for sharing the frustration and gives you a foundation for an actual dialogue.

But isn’t this pandering? I don’t think so. The writer is right. They are frustrated. His opinion is his opinion, and if you don’t value it, you’re shutting down something useful.

How about, ‘you’re right, it’s reasonable to expect that we would have turned off your Prius. We’ll post a note for all our attendants so they pay better attention in the future.’ A note like this makes the customer happy and it makes your garage work better.

Someone wrote to me last week, complaining that the handwritten inscription in a book I had signed for his colleague wasn’t warm enough. I responded that he was right to be frustrated, and that if his expectations had been so high, I should either have lowered them or exceeded them. Of course he was right... with expectations like that, it’s not surprising that he was disappointed.

Arguing with a customer who takes the time to write to you does two things: it keeps them from ever writing again and it costs you (at least) one customer. Perhaps that’s your goal. Just take a moment before you launch an unhappy former customer into the world.

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