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March 2008
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May 2008

Your Customers Have Customers

We all know the drill "What do the customers want / need/"  So we do demographics, market segmentation, build personas and think we're done.  But if you're in a B2B business you're only half way there.   Because in reality it's B2B2C or B2B2B.   And that last leg is where it gets complicated.

The best approach is to start at the very end point of the process.  Where the original dollar starts and is given to your customer who, of course, is going to just *love* your product and give part of that dollar to you.   It's called "sell through".   So to really get the ball rolling you need to drop on your customer's lap a complete marketing strategy they can use for their customers.  Better yet, drive the demand from the end customer who are clamoring for a place to get your product.    Then imagine how long your sales cycles will be when you call and ask "We have 50 people who want to buy our product.  Would you like to sell it to them"?

Seems elementary but most companies stop when they get the initial order and move on.  And that's a big mistake.   Case in point.   MSP Alliance did a survey of their MSP resellers and here's what they found:

Forty percent of respondents said that no vendor has a good MSP program. That, Weaver said, indicates vendors need to put more effort into adding features to their technology and supporting partners on marketing the technology.

So go the extra mile and make sure that your customers will be a hit with their customers.

Delta Airlines Customer Service: Part II

Working for a US based airline has got to be a tough job.   And everyone wants to take a shot at you.  Kind of like being inside of a piñata.  Aa

Balancing costs and customer service is a rough road.   Delta used to have ticket counters in all the major cities.  With the exception of New York, they closed them all.   In spite of all these and other measures, fuel cost contributed to a $6.4 billion loss this quarter.  Ouch.

I got a call from a retired friend of mine today.   He was totally frustrated because he wanted to renew his Crown Room membership and he could no longer drive over to the mall and visit the ticket office.  So he called the general line and enjoyed the piano on hold music.  The agent said he could renew on line.   No computer.   So they mailed him an application that he could fax in.  No fax.

Now this isn't just any traveler.  Not only is he a million miler, but a "Flying Colonel" which is the level above platinum.   Turns out Delta trashed that program several years ago when they cut a lot of frequent flier benefits (most of which have be re-instated). 

So I placed a couple of calls: one to Andy McDill, Delta's spokesperson, and one to the customer service line.   I got right through to an agent, Jim Reynolds, who walked me through all the options and suggested just renewing when checking in on the next flight.  Not a bad option but I did question why they couldn't do it over the phone.......   Andy called me back within the hour and he carefully (and cheerfully) explained why the procedures and we talked about fuel prices.   

But in the end, I logged onto my computer and got the renewal done .  (Don't understand why Delta can take a credit card on the phone to buy and ticket but not renew a Crown Room membership.  I wonder if they out-sourced that....)

Two things to take away:
1) In times of trouble, be responsive (like Delta): you need all your friends more than ever.
2) Your best customers are your best customers.  Treat everyone well, but go the extra mile for them.

Time Out! for Panasonic's "It's Time For Some Viera Time"

Viera looks like a great HD TV.   I saw a commercial yesterday for it and it confused me a lot.   It started off with a family too busy to spend time with each other.

The solution?  A Viera TV.  So far so good.  As they say:

Spend some Viera time with your friends and family.

Aa Then they  show me why this will happen.  Because they have an SD memory slot and remote control.

Yup, a memory slot will bring your family together.

Today's advice, leave engineering at home when you're working on your creative.

Selling Shoes Online: Zappos & Cole Haan

The problem with having favorite shoes is you wear them a lot and  they wear out.   So I decided to get ahead of the curve and try to find a new pair of shoes so I would never have that awkward phase with no favorite shoes.   I've used Zappos before (nice selection of Pumas) so I found an interesting pair there.   I also found a nice pair at Cole Haan (no local stores).

Aa On Friday I placed both orders within 10 minutes of each other.  Selected standard shipment and the prices were within $10 from each supplier.  For some reason I always buy stuff on Thursday and Friday because you get the weekend for transit.

Zappos process the order and told me they loved me and upgraded to overnight shipping.    And I'll get them today (Monday) and yes I checked and UPS is driving around the neighborhood right now with my shoes.

I check status at Cole Haan and they have not shipped yet.   And no phone number, I had to send an email to see what is going on.  Stay tuned.

Here's what Zappos did right:
1) over communicated
2) give me more than what I expected
3) had multiple way for me to contact them

And you should be doing the same.   

NewsFlash: Women Buy Stuff

This is not a PC post, but it just irks me how in sales and customer service how poorly women are treated.   Like the time my daughter wanted to show me a new car she had researched.   She asked all the questions and the sales jerks only talked to me.   Needless to say they lost the sale.

Read the Soccer Mom Myth.

I also despise demographics.   Let's say 80% of your demographic has a certain behavior.  That means 20% does not.  And, here's the most important point, no demographic applies to a single individual.  And we work with individuals don't we?

Today's quiz.   We have a 79 single woman living in a trailer in the South West.   She makes her buying decisions based on:
1) newspaper ads
2) direct mail campaigns
3) WOM through the Internet

If you said 3 you were correct.   So think very hard next time you make an assumption and listen to and get to know each individual.

Lowes and Home Depot: A Tale of Two Websites

With gas at $3.50 I no longer just "pop out" to check out something.   I like to do a little research first.   So when I was looking at shelving units I checked out Lowes and Home Depot.   Lowes listed Aa the item, told me if it was in stock at the local (well 25 miles away) store and if it wasn't, I could order it and have it shipped to the store for pickup for free.


Home Depot listed the item, didn't and wouldn't know if it was in stock (check at the store) and you couldn't order it online.

I think I'll drive 25 miles.

Burton Snowboards + Poaching = Clever Marketing

Hi, my name is Bruce and I'm a skier.   About 10 years ago, many resorts did not allow snowboarding, but that changed quickly.   Today in the US, there are just 4 resorts that are skier only including Alta and Deer Valley here in Utah (out of 9 resorts locally).   

Aa So Burton had a contest: Poach a ski only resort, make a video and we'll give you $5K.    Pretty clever and hats off to Nate Bosshard.  For ~$20K  Burton got a great buzz in the community and it wasn't through an advertising campaign.

Here at Deer Valley (rated #1 by Ski Magazine) Andrew Braden won the prize submitting this video.  (disclaimer: Andrew is a friend of our family).

Are you a "tried & true" marketing person using only approved methods, or are you reaching out to your customers in numerous non-traditional ways?

Getting to the Point

Earlier this week I attended a conference in which I wanted to gauge reaction to a new product offering.   And this was an informal one on one type of conference.

No PowerPoint.  Which is hard to do standing around the coffee urn.

Maybe data sheets?   I don't think so.   My unscientific observation is if someone does take one, they end up in the hotel room trash can that evening (if they make it that far).

Aa What to do?    You can design and print business cards for not much money these days.   (btw stay away from vistaprint because they nick you every time you upload an image).   And get them in 48 hours.   So I printed up a card which had printing on both sides.   I found a service that allowed me to upload Adobe Illustrator files which was great because everything is in vector for extremely crisp printing.

On one side was a 5 word description of what the product actually did.   

This is one of my pet peeves.   Too often people love their adjectives: Seamless, leaders and other useless adjectives.  Only use nouns. 

Then I added something pertinent to the conference, contact information and a logo.  Side two had five bullet points of 1-5 words listing the key features.

That was it.   Even if you are not going to do print them, this is a great exercise for getting your point across.   If you cannot state this simply, you are not trying hard enough.  And you will lose the attention of your potential customers.

And finally, I knew people would not throw out the cards because it fit right in with all the business cards they collected.